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Press briefing notes on Syria and India

1) Syria/Idlib

The intensified ground-based bombardment of Idlib and surrounding areas by government forces and their allies in recent weeks, coupled with a series of attacks by non-State actors, has led to numerous civilian casualties and left some one million people, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people, in an extremely vulnerable situation, the UN Human Rights Chief said on Tuesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on all parties involved, as well as external governments with influence, to ensure that the protection of civilians is held paramount in the planning and execution of all military operations in accordance with international law.

Civilians continue to be used as pawns by the various parties, Bachelet said. I call on them to provide safe passage to those who wish to flee, while those wish to remain must also be protected as much as possible. They should not be sacrificed to ideology on the one hand, or military expediency on the other. If protecting civilian lives means taking a few more days to capture the last fraction of land controlled by ISIL, then so be it.

2) India/Kashmir

The High Commissioner strongly condemns the suicide bomb attack against Indian security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February and calls on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

We are also saddened by the further loss of life reported from subsequent gun battles in Pulwama yesterday, 18 February, which is reported to have claimed 9 more lives.

We hope escalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours will not add further to the insecurity in the region.

The High Commissioner is also concerned by reports from India that some elements are using the Pulwama attack as justification for threats and potential acts of violence targeting Kashmiri and Muslim communities living in different parts of India. We acknowledge actions taken by the Indian authorities to tackle these incidents and we hope that the Government will continue to take steps to protect people from all forms of harm that may be directed at them on account of their ethnicity or identity.

Source: United Nations Human Rights