* Says Syrian air force deliberately attacked aid convoy
* Syrian, Russia air forces carried out "daily air strikes"
* Cluster bombs used "pervasively" in Aleppo offensive
* Opposition used human shields in eastern Aleppo
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, March 1Both sides in the battle for
Aleppo committed war crimes, including Syrian government
aircraft that "deliberately" bombed and strafed a humanitarian
convoy, killing 14 aid workers and halting relief operations,
U.N. investigators said on Wednesday.
Syrian and Russian forces conducted "daily air strikes" on
rebel-held eastern Aleppo between July and its fall on December
22, killing hundreds and destroying hospitals, they said in
their latest report.
Cluster munitions were "pervasively used" and air-dropped
into densely-populated areas, it said, amounting to the war
crime of indiscriminate attacks.
But investigators could not say whether both Syrian and
Russian forces had used them in Aleppo or only one had. They
also did not attribute any specific war crime investigated to
"Throughout the period under review, the skies over Aleppo
city and its environs were jointly controlled by Syrian and
Russian air forces ... (They) use predominantly the same
aircraft and weapons, thus rendering attribution impossible in
many cases," the report said.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry's report - released as Syrian
peace talks continue in Geneva - covers the July-December period
and is based on 291 interviews with victims and witnesses, as
well as analysis of forensic evidence and satellite imagery.
Syrian helicopters unleashed toxic chlorine bombs
"throughout 2016" on Aleppo, a banned weapon that caused
hundreds of civilian casualties there, the report said.
At least 5,000 pro-government forces also encircled eastern
Aleppo in a "surrender or starve" tactic, it said.
Opposition groups shelled government-controlled western
Aleppo, killing and injuring dozens, the report said. They
prevented civilians from fleeing eastern Aleppo, using them as
"human shields", and attacked the residential Kurdish district
of Sheikh Maqsoud, both war crimes.
The U.S.-led coalition did not conduct any offensive air
missions over Aleppo in the second half of the year, they said.
Syrian and Russian warplanes dropped unguided munitions,
known as indiscriminate "dumb bombs" rather than smart bombs
that have electronic sensors to find their targets, the report
These included aerial bombs, air-to-surface rockets, cluster
munitions, incendiary bombs, barrel bombs, and weapons
delivering toxic industrial chemicals.
The investigators accused the Syrian government of a
"meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out" air strike on
a U.N. and Syrian Red Crescent convoy at Orum al-Kubra, in rural
western Aleppo on Sept 19 that killed 14 aid workers.
A previous U.N. inquiry had been unable to determine who
conducted the strike.
"By using air-delivered munitions with the knowledge that
humanitarian workers were operating in the location, Syrian
forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking
humanitarian relief personnel, denial of humanitarian aid, and
attacking civilians," the report said.
Survivors "consistently described" three stages of attack.
"First helicopters dropped barrel bombs, which struck the
warehouse and a family home nearby ... Subsequently, planes,
described by several witnesses as Sukhoi jets, carried out
attacks, killing several aid workers. Lastly the aircraft fired
machine guns at survivors."
During the recapture of eastern Aleppo, pro-government
forces arrested doctors and aid workers and committed reprisal
executions, the report said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)