GENEVA: The upsurge in violence in Syria, combined with its plummeting economy, is making life increasingly bleak for civilians, United Nations investigators said on Tuesday.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said war crimes were still being committed and the increase in fighting was only adding to Syria's woes and making it unsafe for refugees to return.
Syria's war has killed an estimated 500,000 people and displaced millions since it started with anti-government protests in 2011.
"The overall situation in Syria looks increasingly bleak," commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd said in a statement.
"In addition to intensifying violence, the economy is plummeting, Mesopotamia's famous riverbeds are at their driest in decades, and widespread community transmission of Covid-19 seems unstoppable by a health care system decimated by the war and lacking oxygen and vaccines," AbuZayd said, adding it was "no time" for refugees to return.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the country.
Its latest report covers incidents between July 1, 2020 and June 30 this year.
The three-member panel said there seemed to be no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation, with incidents of arbitrary detention by government forces continuing unabated.
The report said tens of thousands of Syrians were still desperately awaiting news from missing and disappeared loved ones, while tens of thousands more were being unlawfully detained.
Recent months had seen increased fighting and violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, it said.
Commissioner Hanny Megally called the siege of Daraa al Balad an unfolding tragedy.
"It's only two or three months into it but it's the same tactic of preventing food, medicine and other goods coming in and preventing people from leaving," he told a press conference in Geneva.
Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro said it was "scandalous" that an estimated 40,000 children -- half of them Iraqi and the rest from around 60 other countries -- were still being held in Al-Hol and other detention camps for the displaced and families of defeated militants, because their home countries refuse to take them back in.
"Punishing children for the sins of their parents cannot be justified," he told the press conference.
The commission will present its report to the Human Rights Council on September 23.
Meanwhile, air strikes from unidentified drones killed three fighters in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border, a Britain-based war monitor said on Wednesday.
The drones late on Tuesday targeted trucks of the Iraqi paramilitary network Hashed al Shaabi after they had crossed the border into the Syrian border district of Albu Kamal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Three were killed and several severely wounded, the monitoring group said.
A source within the Hashed al Shaabi in Iraq however said that "the strikes destroyed four vehicles, but no one was killed".
"The site targeted was near a border post of the factions on the Iraqi-Syrian border," the source said.
The Fatah alliance, the political wing of the Hashed al Shaabi, condemned an "abject attack" on its forces on the frontier.
It called on Iraq's government and parliament to "determine the countries responsible" and confront them.
Iran-backed groups, including the Hashed al Shaabi, are present near the Iraqi border in Syria's far east.
The strikes on Albu Kamal come after a drone attack late on Saturday against the Arbil international airport, which includes an air base of the US-led coalition that has been fighting the IS group.
There were no casualties in the attack on the base in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Attacks of this kind, normally targeting US troops or US interests in Iraq, have become common in recent months.
Although no one claims responsibility for them, Washington blames forces in Iraq.
The United States has twice conducted deadly strikes against the Hashed al Shaabi in eastern Syria since President Joe Biden took office, in February and June this year. - Agencies