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Activists: Syrian rocket attack on Aleppo kills 20
By REUTERS
19/02/2013
Russian official describes calls to refer suspected war criminals in Syria to the International Criminal Court as "untimely."
 
A Syrian army rocket attack on a rebel-held district in the city of Aleppo killed at least 20 people and another 25 were missing, opposition activists said on Tuesday.

The missile was identified from its remains as a Scud-type rocket that government forces have increasingly used in areas under opposition control in the province of Aleppo and in the province of Deir a-Zor to the east, they said.

"The rocket brought down three adjacent buildings in Jabal Badro district. The bodies are being dug up gradually. Some, including children, have died in hospitals," Mohammad Nour said by phone from Aleppo. He said testimony from survivors indicated that another 25 people were still under the rubble.

Abu Mujahed, a member of the Sham News Network opposition group in Aleppo, said although rebels were present in Jabal Badro, the area on the city's eastern edge had little strategic value.

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"Jabal Badro has been with the opposition for months and life was normal in the district. Shops were open and people were going to work," Abu Mujahed said. "Using a devastating weapon like a Scud aims to stir anger against the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and undermine its base of popular support."

Syria has been convulsed by an uprising and civil war for almost two years, with an estimated 70,000 people killed, and UN investigators say war crimes, including deliberate attacks on civilians, have been committed by both sides.

Russian official: ICC war crime requests for Syria 'untimely'

A senior Russian official indicated on Tuesday that Moscow would not immediately back calls to refer suspected war criminals in Syria to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

United Nations investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminals should face the ICC.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, whose country is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, told a news conference that this was "not the path we should follow ... at this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive."

Because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council, where Moscow is a permanent member.

Gatilov said ending violence was the immediate priority in Syria and that allegations of human rights violations should not be directed only at one side.

Moscow has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on Damascus to end the violence which has seen nearly 70,000 people killed in an uprising that is almost two years old.

The investigators on Monday urged the UN Security Council to "act urgently to ensure accountability" for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides.
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