A Military Escalation between the Parties to the Conflict and the Controlling Forces in Northern Syria Kills Dozens of Civilians: Syria Remains Unsafe for the Return of IDPs and Refugees
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its monthly special report summarizing the human rights situation in Syria, outlining the most notable human rights violations documented by the SNHR in August 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that the military escalation between the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in northern Syria kills dozens of civilians, and that Syria remains unsafe for the return of IDPs and refugees.
The 27-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in August 2022, including the death toll of civilian victims who were killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, as well as the record of cases of arrest/detention and enforced disappearances. The report also highlights attacks on civilian objects, which SNHR was able to document during this period.
The report draws upon the ongoing daily monitoring of news and developments, and on an extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.
The report documents the deaths of 91 civilians, including 29 children and two women (adult female), in August 2022, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of other parties. Among the victims was one media worker and seven individuals who died due to torture, in addition to one massacre committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 186 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention in August 2022 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 17 children and 11 women (adult female), with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus, then Damascus Suburbs, followed by Daraa.
The report documents at least three attacks on vital civilian facilities in August 2022, all of which took place in Aleppo governorate. Among these attacks, we documented two on educational facilities, and one on a market.
As the report reveals, August saw an increase in the frequency of artillery shelling carried out by Syrian regime forces in the Idlib region in northwest Syria. This shelling in August was focused on the villages and towns close to the line of contact with the armed opposition factions. The towns and villages of the northern, southern, and western suburbs of Idlib far from the contact lines, were also subjected to ground attacks by Syrian regime forces. The report records that Syrian regime forces in August continued their military escalation in areas of Daraa governorate, with regime artillery forces firing mortar shells at Tafas city in the western suburbs of Daraa governorate on August 10, injuring several civilians. The report also records that Russian forces continued to carry out overflights and air attacks on northwest Syria in August, with the last week of August witnessing an escalation by these forces. In August, the report also records that Syrian Democratic Forces continued to launch ground attacks on areas of the northwestern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo, as well as an escalation in the frequency of missile bombardment, which originated from the areas under the joint control of Syrian regime forces and Kurdish Self-Management forces in the north of Aleppo; on August 19, al Bab city in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo was subjected to a ground attack that resulted in a massacre of 16 civilians.
The report records that the frequency of clashes between clans in SDF-controlled areas increased in August compared to previous months, killing at least 13 people and burning dozens of houses. August also saw the killing of civilians in various governorates, mostly in Daraa governorate, by gunmen whom SNHR has been unable to identify. The report also monitors the continuation of killings in al Hawl Camp, documenting the killing of three civilians.
As the report documents, August also saw continuing civilian deaths due to explosions caused by landmines and munitions remnants from the conflict in various governorates and regions of Syria. SNHR documented the deaths of 11 civilians, including five children, resulting from landmine and remnants of war explosions in August, bringing the total death toll caused by these munitions since the beginning of 2022 to 101 civilians, including 50 children and nine women.
The report notes that the living, economic, and service conditions in all regions of Syria continued to deteriorate drastically and constantly in August. The areas under the control of Syrian regime forces are still suffering from the steady rise in the prices of living materials. In terms of services, the electricity crisis continued to afflict these areas, with the policy of rationing still applied during the hours of electricity connection. In addition, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection has reduced the already meager weekly allowances for bread distributed through the electronic card for the category of one and two persons.
As for fuel prices, the report records that the Syrian regime government raised the price of a liter of subsidized gasoline (octane 90) purchased via the electronic card, an increase of 230% compared to its previous price. The government also raised the price of a liter of gasoline (octane 95). The increase in fuel prices has further exacerbated the transportation crisis experienced by most of the areas under the control of Syrian regime forces. Meanwhile, hospitals and government medical centers affiliated with the Syrian regime are also suffering from the crisis of losing medicines and medical supplies.
In northwestern Syria, civilians continued to suffer from the high prices of consumer goods, supplies, and fuels, in light of the almost total lack of purchasing power among those living in the region, due to the spread of unemployment and the high rate of poverty, especially in the areas which include IDP camps, in addition to the low wages of labor. Throughout August, Manbej city in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo governorate witnessed protests against the Syrian Democratic Forces’ practices, especially the kidnapping of children. As for northeastern Syria, the situation in the region continued to deteriorate in light of the tense security situation, insecurity, and the spread of administrative corruption.
In August, the report records that the massive suffering of IDPs in northwest Syria continued in regard to living conditions and shortages of humanitarian aid, especially in light of the deteriorating economic conditions and the increase of needs which are reaching record levels even as the support required to meet these needs declines, with this already desperate situation further worsened by the almost complete lack of job opportunities. The report also records the outbreak of two fires in camps in northeastern Syria, killing three children, as well as recording the departure of the twenty third group of IDPs from al Hawl Camp, consisting of 77 IDP families from Deir Ez-Zour governorate returning to Deir Ez-Zour governorate, under a decision issued by Syrian Democratic Forces’ Self-Management Authority No. 146 in October 2020 to empty al Hawl Camp. As the report notes, the suffering of the residents of al Rukban camp grew even worse in July and August, with rising temperatures exacerbating the repercussions of reducing the quantity of potable water that was previously brought across the Jordanian border to the camp with the support of UNICEF by almost half, since last May, in a way that threatens the lives of the camp residents. On August 16, the bakery that supplies the camp’s residents with bread stopped working due to the complete lack of flour supplies entering the camp as a result of the further tightening of the siege imposed by Syrian regime forces there which is still being imposed as of the moment of preparing this report.
The report further reveals that evidence gathered by SNHR indicates that attacks have been directed against civilians and civilian objects, with Syrian-Russian alliance forces continuing to commit various crimes of extrajudicial killing, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they have carried out caused the destruction of various facilities and other buildings. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law and customary law, and a number of UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 2139 and 2042 concerning the release of detainees, as well as resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
The report adds that the instances of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are considered to be in clear violation of international humanitarian law, with such indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional steps following its adoption of Resolution 2254, and stresses the importance of referring the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court, adding that all those who are responsible should be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been repeatedly proven.
The report also calls on the Security Council to adopt a resolution banning the use of cluster munitions and landmines in Syria, similar to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and to include advice on how to safely remove the remnants of such dangerous weapons.
The report additionally requests that all relevant United Nations agencies make greater efforts to provide food, medical and humanitarian assistance in areas where fighting has ceased, and in internally displaced person camps, and to follow up with those States that have pledged voluntary contributions.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine after all political channels have proved fruitless through all agreements, the Cessation of Hostilities statements, and Astana agreements that followed, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII, and to implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to launch investigations into the cases included in this report and previous reports, and confirms the SNHR’s willingness to cooperate and provide further evidence and data, with the report calling on the COI to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within their next report.
The report also calls on the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and those who were primarily responsible for dooming the de-escalation agreements, to reschedule the peace process so that it can resume its natural course despite Russia’s attempts to divert and distort it, through empowering the Constitutional Committee prior to the establishment of a transitional governing body.
The report also emphasizes that the Syrian regime must stop its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools, and markets, and stop using prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, as well as complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report stresses that the states supporting Syrian Democratic Forces should apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns under their control, adding that Syrian Democratic Forces must immediately stop conscripting children, hold the officers involved in such violations accountable, and pledge to return all children who have been arrested for conscription immediately.
The report also calls on all Armed Opposition factions and the Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, and calls on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons, and to provide protected facilities and vehicles, such as medical facilities, schools, and ambulances, with distinctive signs that can be distinguished from long distances, as well as making several additional recommendations.