Syria violence surges to worst levels since 2020, UN report finds

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, regional tension has soared, raising concerns of a broader conflict

People and rescuers gather in front of a building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Damascus on January 20. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Fighting and violence in Syria have surged to the worst levels since 2020 and the country faces a growing humanitarian crisis as lawlessness rises, a UN-backed commission said in a report on Monday.

The UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria in 2011 after the civil war erupted that year.

In its latest report, the commission said that since October, Syria has seen the largest increase in fighting in four years.

“With the region in turmoil, a determined international effort to contain the fighting on Syrian soil is imperative,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry.

“Syria, too, desperately needs a ceasefire.”

Mr Pinheiro said that more than 90 per cent of Syrians now live in poverty.

“The economy is in free-fall amid tightening sanctions and increased lawlessness is fuelling predatory practices and extortion by armed forces and militia,” he said.

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, regional tension has soared, raising concerns of a wider conflict.

Israel has conducted strikes on Iran-affiliated targets in Syria, including at key airports, disrupting UN humanitarian efforts.

And in response to more than 100 attacks on their bases by pro-Iran militias, US forces have launched retaliatory air strikes in Syria's east.

Syria and Russia have launched strikes on more than 2,300 locations in areas held by the opposition, resulting in significant civilian casualties.

These widespread assaults, said the Commission, could constitute war crimes.

In Idlib, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham continued to commit acts of torture, ill-treatment and unlawful deprivation of liberty, with reports of executions based on summary trials, including for witchcraft, adultery and murder, the report states.

It underscored a growing humanitarian crisis that is pushing Syrians into an increasingly dire situation.

The surge in asylum requests from Syrians in Europe this past October, at a seven-year peak, comes as no shock, commissioner Hanny Megally said.

The commission will present its report to the UN Human Rights Council on March 18, underlining the gravity of the situation and the need for immediate action to ease the suffering of the Syrian people.

Updated: March 11, 2024, 6:32 PM