The Syrian Air Force is deliberately targeting civilians in air strikes, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text] on Wednesday. According to the report, which is based on visits to 50 sites of government air strikes in opposition-controlled areas, there have been 152 aerial attacks leaving more than 4,300 civilians dead. HRW believes the attacks are a deliberate attempt by the Syrian government to terrorize civilians [AP report] in rebel-controlled areas and that the government is responsible for committing war crimes [HRW press release] and violations of international humanitarian law. However, the attacks have done little damage to opposition groups and civilians have suffered most of the consequences.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has lasted for nearly two years, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. Last month HRW accused Syria's military [JURIST report] of using widely-banned cluster munitions against civilians. In February the UN said that both the Syrian government and anti-government rebels are committing war crimes [JURIST report]. Earlier that month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported [JURIST report] that the death toll resulting from two years of armed conflict in Syria is approaching 70,000. In January more than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website].