UN Tuesday condemned the ISIL attack on civilian-populated areas in As-Sweida in southwest Syria last Wednesday which left more than 200 people dead, while more than two dozen women were taken hostage.
“We have received reports that more than 200 people were killed and injured in multiple attacks, including suicide bombings in As-Sweida City and in various villages in eastern and northeastern rural As-Sweida Governorate. Scores of ISIL militants also raided homes in at least eight villages in eastern and northeastern rural As-Sweida, shooting and killing civilians inside their homes and abducting women and children,” Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement issued to press.
Shamdasani said that they have have received the names of at least 27 women and children who were reportedly taken hostage from Al-Shbiki village in eastern rural As-Sweida, although we believe the real number is likely to be much higher.
“According to eyewitnesses, ISIL fighters initially took women from a handful of houses from Al-Shbiki village and used them to knock on the doors of their neighbours, then killing and abducting more civilians in their homes. Photos of some of these abducted women were later tweeted, with threats to burn them alive if the Government did not cease military operations against ISIL in western Daraa Governorate and release ISIL women and men in Government custody,” Shamdasani said.
Spokesperson said that they understand that these ISIL militants included many who were recently evacuated and relocated from the Palestinian Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Hajar Al-Aswad, and Al-Tadamon areas of southern Damascus as part of a Government “reconciliation agreement”.
“The Government has reportedly used such agreements in areas it is close to capturing, in order to give armed groups the option of either reconciling with the Government or being transferred to other parts of the country that are not Government-controlled. While agreements putting an end to fighting are to be welcomed, the well-being of civilians must be paramount in any considerations,” Shamdasani said, adding the transfer of armed fighters with a history of gross human rights abuses and contempt towards international law can mean an increase in the likelihood of violent attacks against civilians like the ones carried out last week in As-Sweida.
The urged the Syrian Government not to put civilians at serious risk through such relocations.
Expressing concern that the situation in As-Sweida may worsen, particularly if the local communities do not trust the Government to protect them or defend their rights. They called on the Government of Syria to take all necessary measures, in line with international human rights and humanitarian law, to protect civilians from attacks.
“The Government of Syria has a duty to take action to prevent violent acts that may endanger the lives and well-being of civilians – including by not placing armed groups such as ISIL in their proximity. The Government also has the duty to ensure that those who commit crimes, human rights violations or abuses are held accountable according to law and in compliance with the applicable international human rights standards,” Shamdasani said.