UN to probe attacks on humanitarian sites in northwestern Syria

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By Natalie Huet and Anelise Borges  with Reuters
Ariha, Idlib province, 28 July 2019. Courtesy Syrian Civil Defence Idlib
Ariha, Idlib province, 28 July 2019. Courtesy Syrian Civil Defence Idlib

The United Nations has agreed to launch an investigation into the bombing of humanitarian sites in northwestern Syria.

It follows pleas by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said airstrikes by the Syrian government and its ally Russia have hit schools, hospitals and markets, killing scores of civilians in Idlib province, the country's last rebel stronghold.

The UN Security Council has for years been deadlocked on Syria, with Russia using its veto to protect its ally from any action.

This week, however, two-thirds of the Council petitioned the UN Secretary-General asking for an inquiry into attacks on some 14 locations, including medical facilities.

“I fully respect the right of the Russian Federation to disagree with me, as I also respect the ten other members of the Security Council that had the opposite opinion," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

"I believe that this inquiry can produce an important result. And I can guarantee that everything will be done to make sure that this board of inquiry acts with full objectivity."

The locations of UN-supported humanitarian sites and hospitals had been shared with the warring parties in a bid to protect them, but the UN and humanitarian groups suspect this has actually made them a target.