Civilians ‘deliberately targeted’ in Syria by government and Russian forces, Amnesty report claims
Human rights group say there have been ‘serious violations of international humanitarian law’
Syrian and Russian forces have “deliberately targeted” civilians in northwest Syria, according to a new report by Amnesty International which has urged the UN to ensure aid can keep reaching a war-torn province in the country.
The Amnesty report has detailed 18 instances – mainly in the first two months of this year – where these buildings have been targeted by Syrian government or Russian forces.
The document, called ‘Nowhere is safe for us’: Unlawful attacks and mass displacement in northwest Syria, contains information from flight spotters and intercepted flight communications.
“These recordings from the cockpits of warplanes provide strong evidence of the Russian military’s involvement in at least one unlawful attack that put a hospital out of service,” Amnesty said.
The human rights group said they have documented attacks which have forced five hospitals to shut down in areas under armed opposition group control.
According to the Idlib Health Directorate, Syrian or Russian attacks damaged or destroyed 10 medical facilities in Idlib and Aleppo between last December and this February, leading to the deaths of nine medical and other staff.
Amnesty said: “The incidents documented in the report – based on dozens of interviews and corroborated by numerous witness accounts, videos and photographs, and expert analysis of satellite imagery – show how Syrian and Russian forces have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects.”
The organisation said there had been “serious violations of international humanitarian law”, which requires armed forces to only aim attacks at military targets and fighters rather than civilians.
“They are also war crimes and those who order or commit such acts are criminally liable,” Amnesty said.
The report comes as the human rights organisation appealed to the UN to guarantee aid can keep reaching Idlib province, as a resolution letting assistance reach northwest Syria and other parts of the country without the government’s consent is set to expire in July.
“Even by the standards of Syria’s calamitous nine-year crisis, the displacement and humanitarian emergency sparked by the latest onslaught on Idlib has been unprecedented,” Heba Morayef from Amnesty International said.
“The UN Security Council must not cut the vital lifeline of cross-border humanitarian aid while thousands of lives hang in the balance.”
The Middle East and North Africa Director added: “The latest offensive continued an abhorrent pattern of widespread and systematic attacks aimed at terrorising the civilian population.
“UN officials have already called Idlib a humanitarian ‘horror story’ – this will only worsen unless the Security Council sees beyond political ploys and sustains the precious lifeline of cross-border humanitarian aid.”
Around 1 million Syrians have fled the Idlib region and its surrounding countryside in northwest Syria this past year after Russian-backed government forces stepped up a campaign to retake the last rebel stronghold after nine years of war.
Fighting has calmed since March when Turkey, which backs some groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, agreed a ceasefire with Moscow, which has supported Damascus with heavy air power.
Northwestern Syria is the last major piece of territory held by rebels fighting Mr Assad.
Opinions expressed in this article reflect the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Observatory.