Senate panel denounces 'war crimes' in ongoing conflict in Syria

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a bill that condemns violence in Syria and calls on the State Department to report to Congress on war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country.

The bill denounces the use of chemical weapons, the targeting of civilian populations with barrel and cluster bomb and missiles and what it says are "gross human rights violations" carried out by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and violent extremist groups.

A Britain-based human rights group says at least 230,000 people have died since the conflict began in March 2011.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, passed Tuesday on a voice vote in the committee.

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