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Both sides in Syria commit atrocities, UN panel charges

Europe extends arms embargo; rebels seek gains

A Syrian refugee woman walked between rows of tents in a camp near Azaz, north of Aleppo province in Syria. Rebels sought on Monday to capture Aleppo’s airport.

Manu Brabo/Associated Press

A Syrian refugee woman walked between rows of tents in a camp near Azaz, north of Aleppo province in Syria. Rebels sought on Monday to capture Aleppo’s airport.

BEIRUT — A United Nations commission on Monday said fighters on both sides in Syria’s civil war have committed atrocities and should be brought to justice, while European foreign ministers extended an arms embargo on the country in hopes it would limit the ability of both sides to wage war.

The announcements had little resonance inside Syria, however, where rebels fought to capture air bases in the north and the forces of President Bashar Assad shelled rebellious areas throughout the country.

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Rebels on Monday overran a government checkpoint on the road to the Aleppo international airport, the country’s second-largest airfield, as they continued their drive to capture the strategic facility, activists said.

The spreading violence inside Syria despite international efforts to stop it reflects the dilemma the conflict poses for the international community.

Despite pleas from the anti-Assad opposition, even sympathetic powers are resistant to provide arms, fearing they will fall into the hands of Islamic extremists who have risen in the rebel ranks.

European ministers said Monday they were keeping an arms embargo in place for three more months.

At the same time, international calls for a negotiated solution have gone nowhere, mostly because both sides still seek military victory.

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In this context, the report issued Monday by the UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria served as a grim state-of-play on the brutal conflict that the United States says has killed some 70,000 people since March 2011.

The 131-page report detailed deepening radicalization by both sides, who increasingly see the war in sectarian terms and rely on brutal tactics to advance their cause, spreading fear and hardship among the country’s civilians.

The report accused both sides of atrocities, while saying that those committed by rebel fighters have not reached the ‘‘intensity and scale’’ of the government’s violations.

Regime forces and its associated militias have committed crimes against humanity, the report said, citing murder, torture and rape.

It said rebels have committed war crimes, including murder, torture, looting and hostage-taking.

The report also accused both sides of using child soldiers, citing the presence of fighters younger than 18 on the government side and under 15 among the rebels.

The commission said it will submit a new, confidential list of Syrians suspected of committing crimes against humanity to the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, next month.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, commission member Carla del Ponte criticized world powers for not doing more to stop the war and called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

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