Syrian-Russian Alliance Forces Have Deliberately Bombed Civilian Objects and Infrastructure in Northwestern Syria
Press release: (Download the full report below)
The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released a report entitled, ‘No Fewer than 73 Attacks on Vital Civilian Facilities by Syrian-Russian Alliance Forces in Northwestern Syria Since October 5, 2023’, in which it reveals that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have deliberately bombarded civilian objects and infrastructure in northwestern Syria.
The report notes that Syrian-Russian alliance forces’ most recent intensified offensive, which was launched on October 5, 2023, has been concentrated on civilian areas extending across Idlib city and surrounding rural districts, as well as those areas of western rural Aleppo to Sahl al-Ghab in western rural Hama which are outside regime control. Most of these attacks have been ground attacks carried out using rocket launchers and artillery weapons. The report adds that these attacks have been wholly deliberate in nature, intentionally targeting heavily populated civilian areas far from the dividing lines, and vital and crowded civilian facilities, in what can be described as an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible to the service infrastructure serving the residents of those areas. Furthermore, these attacks have resulted in dozens of civilian deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands of families.
The report documents the killing of 68 civilians, including 24 children and 14 women (adult female), as well as one medical worker and three humanitarian workers in attacks carried out by Syrian-Russian alliance forces on a number of areas in the governorates of Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama in northwestern Syria between October 5, and November 11, 2023. The report also documents that Syrian regime forces have committed two massacres, while one massacre was committed by Russian forces.
Meanwhile, the report further reveals that between October 5, 2023, and November 11, 2023, SNHR recorded no fewer than 73 attacks on vital civilian facilities by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in northwestern Syria. Of those, 69 attacks were carried out by Syrian regime forces, while the remaining four were carried out by Russian forces. In terms of facilities targeted, 24 attacks, of the 73, targeted educational facilities, 11 on medical facilities, and 12 on places of worship. The report also includes a number of photos SNHR obtained during the process of documenting the attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces on vital civilian facilities in northwestern Syria since October 5, 2023.
The report stresses that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have violated multiple rules of international humanitarian law – most notably by failing to distinguish between civilians and fighters, and between civilian targets and military targets. Those forces have bombarded hospitals, schools, civilian facilities, and neighborhoods. These violations can amount to war crimes. The report adds that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have categorically violated Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2254 that call for ending indiscriminate attacks, as well as violating a large number of the rules of customary international humanitarian law. Furthermore, through the crime of murder, the Syrian-Russian alliances forces have violated Article 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), with these violations constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
As the report further reveals, these bombardment operations have collaterally caused the loss of civilian lives, as well as injuries, and/or heavy damage to civilian facilities. There are also significant indicators strongly suggesting that the damage was exceptionally excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. In most cases, the attacks did not distinguish between civilians and military personnel; indeed, it seems that some of the attacks deliberately targeted vital facilities and civilian areas.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to establish a ceasefire in Idlib that must involve punitive procedures in cases of non-compliance for all parties involved. The report adds that the UN Security Council must work seriously towards bringing about a process of political transition towards achieving stability and preserving the unity of the land of Syria, as well as a dignified and safe return for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Meanwhile, the report calls on the UN Secretary-General to condemn these senseless attacks in the strongest possible terms, and not ignore the deliberate killings of Syrian citizens. Furthermore, the report stresses that the UN Secretary-General must clearly and explicitly identify the perpetrators of human rights violations which is a step towards their being convicted for their crimes and toward exposing their heinous practices to the world. This would also send a message of solidarity to the people affected. Ignoring the explicit mention of the perpetrators of violations emboldens them to repeat these crimes and commit more violations. The report also made a number of additional recommendations.