[JURIST] The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos [official profile] on Monday urged [official statement, PDF] all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to take measures to avoid killing civilians. She stressed that failure to take precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants amounts to a war crime. She also noted that since the situation in Syria [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] is considered an armed conflict, humanitarian law applies to places across the country where violence occurs. Amos stated that humanitarian aid is reaching the victims of the unrest in Syria but urged the international community to increase contributions to enable current humanitarian operations. Currently, 850,000 people are receiving food assistance while 100,000 displaced people received mattresses, blankets and other supplies.
Syria has faced continuous violence over the past year and a half, and human rights groups have blamed both the government and anti-government groups for the resulting deaths. Last week, UN observers confirmed [JURIST report] a recent attack on activists and army defectors in the Syrian village of Tremseh. During the same week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [JURIST report] that soviet-produced unexploded submunitions and a bomb canister were discovered in Jabel Shahshabu, a mountainous area near Hama in Syria and posted to YouTube [media website]. A day earlier, Women Under Siege [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] a report documenting 81 instances of sexual assault and rape in Syria since anti-government demonstrations began in March 2011. The violence arose despite an agreement [JURIST report] between UN Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and the country’s President Bashar Al-Assad to end the conflict in the country. Al-Assad reaffirmed that the government will implement the six-point peace plan [JURIST report].