Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/GettyImages.
UPDATE: Syrian government forces and their allies have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in what appears to be state-directed policy, U.N. human rights investigators said Wednesday.
Opposition forces fighting to end the Assad regime have also committed war crimes, the U.N. commission said, but those crimes fell short of the "gravity, frequency and scale" of those carried by pro-Assad forces.
In their final report released Wednesday, the U.N. investigators said they had "found reasonable grounds" to believe that government forces and Shabbiha militia had committed murder, torture and "gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property." (Via Reuters)
The report was released on the same day that a fuel truck bomb detonated near a Syrian military compound, rocking the Damascus hotel used by U.N. observers in Syria.
According to CBS News, the bomb detonated in a parking lot used by the army outside of the Dama Rose Hotel. At least three were wounded, but there are no reported fatalities. None of the injured are U.N. monitors.
The hotel sustained slight damage. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad called the bombing a "criminal act," arguing that it "shows what kind of attacks Syria is being subjected to."
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has also accused the Syrian regime of violating international humanitarian law by targeting and attacking a hospital. Syrian forces fired rockets into a hospital in an opposition-controlled part of Aleppo earlier this week. According to witnesses who spoke with the organization, rockets also hit a nearby school.
Tuesday, August 14: President Bashar al-Assad’s control of Syria is crumbling "morally, materially, and economically," the country’s former prime minister said Tuesday in his first public statement since he defected last week.*
Speaking at a news conference in Jordan, former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab said that the Assad regime controls only about 30 percent of Syrian territory, and "its military is rusting."*
While it’s difficult for journalists to independently verify exactly how much territorial control Syrian rebels have after 17 months of fighting, Reuters reports that Assad has lost areas in the northern and eastern parts of the country and that his grasp has weakened on Homs and Aleppo.
Hijab became the highest-ranking official to defect from the Syrian government last week when he declared his support for rebel fighters. He was not a member of Assad’s inner circle and was only appointed prime minister in June, the New York Times notes, but his accounts of the government’s weakening grip follows similar accounts by other defectors.
Other military and civilian leaders in Damascus will soon follow suit, Hijab said, as he called on members of the Syrian army to "take the side of the people." Although his plans following his formal declaration of support for the rebels remain unclear, there is some speculation that Hijab will attempt to help from Qatar, one of the uprising’s strongest international allies, the Associated Press reports. His defection, like that of Syria's ambassador to Iraq, boosted morale of the opposition but has done little to change the reality on the ground.
Hijab’s statement came one day after rebels claimed responsibility for the downing of a Syrian fighter jet, casting the strength of Assad’s military control into question. Recent estimates from the United Nations show that some 2 million people have been impacted by fighting, and approximately 20,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
Correction, Aug. 14, 2012: This post originally misspelled the first name of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The first name of Riad Hijab, the former Syrian prime minister, was also misspelled.