The U.N. human rights office is condemning multiple attacks by Islamic State militants against civilians last week, which reportedly killed and injured more than 200 people in the city of Sweida in southwest Syria.
The U.N. agency reports scores of Islamic State militants went on a rampage, raiding homes in at least eight villages in rural Sweida, shooting and killing civilians and abducting women and children in their homes.
Human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says her agency has the names of at least 27 women and children reportedly taken hostage. She adds the real number is probably much higher.
“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 [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in western Dara’a and release ISIL women and men who were in government custody,” she said.
Shamdasani says many of the militants reportedly were recently evacuated and relocated from the Palestinian Yarmouk Refugee Camp and other areas of southern Damascus as part of a so-called government reconciliation agreement.
While agreements putting an end to fighting are welcome, she tells VOA the government is obliged under international law to make sure that civilians are not put in danger.
“They are duty-bound, they are the state who have de jure power, who have jurisdiction over this area and they have the duty to protect civilians who are in this area, including by not putting them deliberately in harm’s way, by putting ISIL fighters close to these civilian residential areas,” she said.
Shamdasani warns against transferring armed fighters who have a history of gross human rights abuses in proximity with local communities. She says their presence, in all likelihood, will increase violent attacks against the civilian population.