The siege and bombing of eastern Aleppo in Syria constitute "crimes of historic proportions" that have caused heavy civilian casualties amounting to "war crimes", according to the top United Nations human rights official.
 

   The collective failure of the international community to protect civilians and halt this bloodshed should haunt every one of us   

Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein's comments on Friday came during a special session of the UN human rights council called by Britain to set up a special inquiry into violations, especially in Aleppo's rebel-held east where an estimated 275,000 civilians are besieged by a Syrian government offensive backed by Russia. 

In a video speech, Zeid said Aleppo is a "slaughterhouse" and called for major powers to put aside their differences and refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Armed opposition groups continue to fire mortars and other projectiles into civilian neighbourhoods of western Aleppo, but indiscriminate air strikes across the eastern part of the city by government forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties," Zeid told the session.

The "collective failure of the international community to protect civilians and halt this bloodshed should haunt every one of us", he added.