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  • Syrian civil war

Image source, AFPImage caption, The 2020 wildfires reportedly burned 24,000 hectares of agricultural and forested land

Syria's government says it has executed 24 people convicted of deliberately starting deadly wildfires last year.

Eleven others were sentenced to life in prison and five minors were given jail terms of between 10 and 12 years, a justice ministry statement said.

It described them as criminals who had committed "terrorist acts".

They allegedly admitted igniting fires in mountainous coastal regions of the war-torn country in September and October 2020 that killed three people.

Human rights groups believe that thousands of people have been executed by President Bashar al-Assad's government since the civil war began in 2011.

UN war crimes investigators said in a recent report that they had been told by witnesses about the killings of detainees without trial or following unfair trials by counter-terrorism or field military courts.

  • Why has the Syrian war lasted 10 years?
  • Are wildfires getting worse?
  • Then and now: The burning issue of wildfires

When the wildfires erupted last year they were attributed to a heat wave that was unusual for the time of the year, as well as warm eastern winds and dried-out vegetation on the ground.

Local authorities documented at total of 187 wildfires around Latakia, Tartous, Homs and Hama provinces that affected 280 towns and villages, the justice ministry said. They devastated 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of agricultural land and 11,000 hectares of forested land, it added.

Wildfires in the Eastern Mediterranean region have become a recurring annual event due to climate change, which increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel them.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

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