UK & World News
UN Chief Warns Aleppo Violence Is 'War Crime'
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has denounced the bloodshed in Syria and said the violence could amount to "war crimes".
Speaking to the General Assembly, he said: "The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account."
Ban reiterated concerns over the deadlock on the UN Security Council after Russia and China last month vetoed for a third time a resolution that would have called for an end to the violence.
And he said he intended to replace UN/Arab League mediator Kofi Annan, who announced his intention to resign at the end of the month on Thursday.
It comes after a senior UN official warned that the "main battle" for Aleppo is imminent.
Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has warned of intensified fighting in the civil war after rebels obtained tanks and other heavy weapons.
He said: "The focus two weeks ago was on Damascus, the focus is now on Aleppo where there has been a considerable build-up of military means and where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start."
Aleppo has been under siege from Assad's forces since July 20, using jets and artillery to target positions within the northern city, and military observers have predicted a prolonged battle for the commercial hub.
The warning came as rebel forces, who hold several areas of the country's largest city, used tanks for the first time to attack a military airport to the north west of the city, according to a commander.
Fighting has also continued to claim lives elsewhere in the country.
In Hama, Syrian forces killed at least 50 people, including 21 members of three families on Thursday, according to local activists and residents.
Further south in the capital Damascus, 20 people were killed when security forces fired three mortar rounds at a Palestinian camp.
Witnesses say the mortars struck a busy street as people were preparing a Ramadan meal to break their fast.
And south of Damascus, a raid by Syrian forces killed another 43 people, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Regime forces entered the Jdaidet Artuz district on Wednesday and arrested around 100 young people who were taken to a school and tortured," the opposition group said in a statement.
"On Thursday morning after the operation the bodies of 43 people were recovered. Some of them had been summarily executed."
As the fighting continues, Moscow is said to be sending three large landing ships with marines aboard to a Russian naval facility in the port of Tartus, according to Russian news agencies quoting a government source.
The source said that each ship would have up to 120 marines on board and the ships, currently in the Mediterranean Sea, would arrive in Tartus by the end of this week.
China has expressed regret over Mr Annan's decision to stand down.
The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria tendered his resignation after complaining that his April peace plan had not received the support it needed from major powers.
He also hit out at "continuous finger-pointing and name-calling" at the UN Security Council which he said had prevented coordinated action to end the bloodshed.