Crisis in Syria spills over into Lebanon, violence continues between rebels and Syrian government forces [GRAPHIC CONTENT]

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The Syrian cities of Aleppo and Homs are under siege as government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad try to route out Syrian rebels. Meanwhile, violence has spilled over into Lebanon, one of four neighboring countries, where many refugees have fled to escape the crisis. United Nations investigators have reported that both Syrian government forces and rebels — to varying degrees — have committed war crimes including murder and torture.

Syrian government forces, rebels committing war crimes: U.N.
Stephanie Nebehay
1:34 p.m. EDT, August 15, 2012

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes including murder and torture in what appears to be state-directed policy, United Nations investigators said on Wednesday.

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have also committed war crimes but these “did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale” of those carried out by the army and security forces, the investigators said.

The report called for the U.N. Security Council to take “appropriate action” given the gravity of documented violations by all sides.

The Security Council can refer a case to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, a United Nations tribunal, but Russia and China – which have veto power – have been loathe to condemn Syria.

“We have identified both parties as guilty of war crimes and of course a greater number and of bigger variety from the government side,” Karen AbuZayd, a senior U.S. investigator and former head of the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“What happened on the government side appears to be a policy of the state. It is not just widespread but similar large-scale complex operations, how they are carried out, the way the military and security work together,” she said.

The independent investigators, led by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro, conducted more than 1,000 interviews, mainly with Syrian refugees or defectors who have fled to neighboring countries, over the past year to produce their latest 102-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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