UN leader highlights 'dramatic escalation' of Syria war

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 17 2012 02:25 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2012 10:25 PM

UNITED NATIONS - UN leader Ban Ki-moon is alarmed by the "dramatic escalation" of the Syrian war, highlighted by a deadly air attack by government forces on a Palestinian refugee camp, his spokesman said Sunday.

Ban warned both sides in the 21-month-old conflict that attacks on civilians could amount to "war crimes," as battles intensify, with rebels making increasing gains against President Bashar al-Assad. The Security Council is set to be briefed Monday morning on the situation.

"The secretary general is alarmed by the continued dramatic escalation of violence in Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban called an air attack on the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus "a matter of grave concern." Syrian activists said at least eight people were killed in the government air raid.

The UN leader also highlighted "extremely worrisome reports" of the mass killing of Alawite followers of Assad in the village of Aqrab last week and the the firing of long range missiles.

Activists said scores of civilians were killed in an Alawite enclave in Aqrab, while rebels have accused the government of using SCUD missiles in the war.

"Continued bombing raids by fixed-wing military aircraft and attack helicopters on populated areas have been amply documented," the UN leader was quoted as saying.

"Targeting civilians or carrying out military operations in populated areas, in an indiscriminate or disproportionate fashion that harms civilians is a war crime."

Ban again praised the countries around Syria that have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees. He "stresses the importance of keeping the borders open to all who are fleeing the violence in Syria," said Nesirky.

The UN leader also renewed a call on the divided major powers "to make every effort to stop the tragic spiral of violence in Syria and urgently to promote an inclusive political process leading to a peaceful political transition."

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