The fighting in Syria has turned into a conflict between the country's various religious groups in recent months, UN human rights investigators said Thursday as they presented their latest report in Brussels, dpa reported.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria said the rebels showed increased strength since late September, by fighting for control over key infrastructure and by acquiring stronger weapons.
The Geneva-based commission said that the minority groups of Muslim Alawites and Christians had formed self-defence groups aligned with the government and had clashed with rebels. At the same time, government forces have been attacking majority Sunni civilians.
"The dangers are evident. Entire communities are at risk of being forced out of the country or of being killed inside the country," the experts said.
The country's various religious and ethnic communities had armed themselves for protection while others were armed by the government or by rebels, said the UN experts, which include former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland.
Their research showed that this development has attracted foreigner fighters from the Middle East and North Africa to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
"As battles between government forces and anti-government armed groups approach the end of their second year, the conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature," the experts said.
Rebels have been trying to take over roads, air ports and oil fields. They have also improved their arsenals, and some larger groups have acquired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The commission said that both sides continue to violate human rights, highlighting attacks on civilians and torture by government forces and summary executions committed by opposition fighters.