U.N. Raises Alarm over Looming Syrian Assault on Rebel Town


The U.N.'s human rights office Friday raised the alarm over a looming Syrian government offensive on the opposition-held town of Yabroud, saying it feared civilians would bear the brunt.

"We are deeply concerned that the attack on Yabroud may follow the pattern of previous attacks on cities and towns across Syria," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

"Government aerial bombardments were indiscriminate and disproportionate in violation of obligations under international law and ensuing land incursions resulted in heavy civilian casualties," he told reporters.

Colville pointed to reports of increased aerial attacks and shelling on the town, which lies near the border with Lebanon, and a military build-up that suggested a major land assault was in sight.

The town's electricity was totally cut off on Wednesday, while hospitals are suffering serious shortages in supplies as scores of people, including civilians, reportedly continue to require urgent treatment, he said.

"We understand that there remains a large number of civilians in Yabroud, with some estimates suggesting 40,000 to 50,000 people, and thousands have been fleeing over the last few days," he added.

Colville said that under international law, the Syrian government was bound to protect all persons who were not actively involved in the hostilities, as well as surrendering, injured and captured fighters.

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