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Syrian rebels amid smoke after a tank fired in Idlib, 11 March 2012. AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd/PA File

VIDEO: Syrian government forces accused of war crimes in Idlib

Human rights group says soldiers carried out summary executions and targeted civilians.

SYRIAN GOVERNMENT forces have been accused of killing dozens of civilians and destroying hundreds of homes during a recent offensive in the northern state of Idlib.

Human Rights Watch says that the attacks occurred while ceasefire negotiations were underway between the Syrian government and the United Nations.

“While diplomats argued over details of Annan’s peace plan, Syrian tanks and helicopters attacked one town in Idlib after another,” said Anna Neistat, HRW’s associate director for programme and emergencies.

“Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops, and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the ceasefire to cause harm.”

Families have reported instances of soldiers arriving in their homes and carrying out summary executions, while others reported being fired on as they fled from attacks.

HRW researcher Ole Solvang said that government forces launched “a series of large-scale military attacks on several towns in northern Idlib” and carried out a number of extrajudicial executions:

(Video uploaded by HumanRightsWatch)

HRW says that opposition forces were present in each of the towns prior to the attacks across Idlib, though residents say that they withdrew in most cases when they realised they were outnumbered by government forces.

The human rights group says that given the intensity and details of the fighting in Idlib, it reached the level of an ‘armed conflict’ under international law, and accused that Syrian government forces of war crimes as well as crimes against humanity.

The Syrian government has accused terrorist groups of carrying out a spate of bomb attacks in recent months, while state media has claimed that terrorists have been disguising themselves as soldiers to carry out attacks.