Syrian government troops committed war crimes when they dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three weeks, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
"The attacks are at least recklessly indiscriminate and the pattern and number of attacks suggest that government forces have been targeting civilians. Both reckless indiscriminate attacks and deliberately targeting civilians are war crimes," the New York-based watchdog said.
Attacks on bread lines in the Northern Province have killed and maimed scores of civilians, HRW said, after its researchers visited six of the targeted bakeries and interviewed witnesses.
One of the bloodiest attacks was on a bread line in the Qadi Askar district of Aleppo city on August 16, which left 60 people dead and wounded more than 70, according to local hospital records.
The battle for Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, has been raging since July 20, with the army unable to dislodge the rebels and civilians hit hardest by the fighting.
"Day after day, Aleppo residents line up to get bread for their families, and instead get shrapnel piercing their bodies from government bombs and shells," said emergencies researcher Ole Solvang, who had just returned from Aleppo.
"Ten bakery attacks is not random -- they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them," he added.
Moreover, the 10 bakeries which came under attack were located in neighborhoods or towns where "no fighting was taking place before or during the attack", the watchdog said.
HRW noted that in one case, a Free Syrian Army facility was located near the bakery, but it was not damaged in the attack.
In five other cases, several FSA fighters were seen maintaining order at the bread lines, but their presence alone would not justify the attacks on substantial numbers of civilians, it said.
"Every pilot who deliberately launches a rocket at a bread line of civilians, and every commander who gives such an order, should face justice for their crimes," Solvang said.
Human Rights Watch urged Russia and China to "stop obstructing United Nations Security Council action to protect civilians in Syria" and said that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.