UN panel warns Syrian war becoming 'overtly sectarian'
Violence in Syria has become openly sectarian and threatens communities as the 21-month conflict continues in the country, UN investigators have reported following a visit to the region.
"As battles between government forces and anti-government armed groups approach the end of their second year, the conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature," the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report.
According to the Herald Sun, after 21 months of the conflict, which activists said has killed more than 43,000 people, 'the dangers are evident', it continued.
It cited in particular tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites.
"Entire communities are at risk of being forced out of the country or of being killed inside the country," it said.
It stressed that 'with communities believing - not without cause - that they face an existential threat, the need for a negotiated settlement is more urgent than ever', the report added.
According to the report, minority groups such as the Armenians, Christians, Druze, Palestinians, Kurds and Turkmen had also been drawn into the conflict.
The commission said it had received 'credible reports' of anti-government groups attacking Alawites; and one account of how rebels who had captured government troops took the Sunnis hostage but executed the Alawites, the report added.
The UN commission, which includes former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, was set up in August 2011, but has yet to actually gain access to Syria.
It did, however, travel to Jordan and Egypt earlier this month to review the situation, and had previously conducted more than 1,000 interviews.
They talked not just to victims of the conflict, but to people who admitted to having taken part in the violence, the report added.