MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Syrian opposition groups deliberately destroy minority religious sites in the areas under their control, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on its website on Wednesday.
“Armed opposition groups appeared to have deliberately destroyed religious sites in mixed areas of Northern Syria, in November and December 2012,” the non-governmental organization said following investigations in Latakia and Idlib governorates. “The opposition has failed to properly address the unjustified attacks against minority places of worship.”
Members of opposition groups fighting in Syria are mostly Sunni Muslims, who attack religious sites of the Alawite and Christian minorities.
The group also said Syrian opposition groups failed to deal with looting and kidnapping.
“Human Rights Watch urged armed opposition groups to protect all religious sites in areas under their control and to discipline members who loot or kidnap,” HRW said in a statement posted on its website.
Under international humanitarian law, parties in an armed conflict have a responsibility to refrain from attacking, seizing, looting and vandalizing religious buildings that are not being used for military purposes. A deliberate attack on a religious site that is not a military object is considered a war crime.
The civil war in Syria continues to gain momentum as the Syrian rebels intensify their push on the capital, Damascus, and other key cities in the country.
At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria in the conflict between government and rebel forces since March 2011, according to UN estimates released in January. The conflict has also forced some 600,000 people to flee Syria in fear of protracted violence.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that due to escalating violence in southern Syria the influx of refugees to Jordan has reached its highest since the conflict between opposition and pro-government troops began in Syria almost two years ago.
"What we have seen in terms of influx of Syrian refugees coming to Jordan is ... unprecedented, larger than any other time in the last two years," Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told Reuters. "We have had 20,000 Syrians coming into Jordan since last Thursday."
More than 300,000 Syrians crossed into the Jordanian territory since the conflict began in March 2011 and the figure is expected to double this year.