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Amnesty International: Syrian regime and Russia continue targeting civilians

March 29, 2019 at 2:02 am

A picture taken on October 15, 2018, shows a man walking past debris and damaged buildings as he carries bags of produce in the northern Syrian city of Raqa. – The fighting ended on October 17 last year, when the city finally fell to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which then handed it over to the Raqa Civil Council (RCC) to govern. Rights group Amnesty International estimates around 80 percent of Raqa was devastated by fighting, including vital infrastructure like schools and hospitals. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP/Getty)

Amnesty International said that the forces of Bashar Al-Assad regime continue the deliberate targeting of health centres, furnaces and neighbourhoods in Idlib, northern Syria, with the support of Russia, indicating that this falls within the framework of “war crimes.”

In a report issued on Thursday and entitled: “the Syrian government forces launched illegal attacks on civilians and health centres,” the organisation said:

“the regime forces increased during March the frequency of aerial targeting of residential neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the Aleppo-Damascus International Highway, pointing out that these attacks forced thousands of civilians to flee to areas close to the Turkish border.

The report quoted the director of the Middle East office of the organisation, Lynn Maalouf, saying that:

“the Syrian government continues to ignore the laws of war and the safety of civilians’ lives, despite the passage of eight years of war in the country,” noting that the military victory (of the regime) came after the killing of tens of thousands of civilians and destruction of populated cities.”

Maalouf pointed out that the ongoing attacks on Idlib are similar to those in Aleppo (north), Daraa (south) and Damascus countryside.

She added that “the Syrian government forces’ targeting of hospitals, health centres, furnaces and schools is forcing people to leave. The Syrian government, supported by Russia, uses the same illegal military tactics which lead to forced displacement and mass displacement.”

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According to the report, the Syrian regime bombed a school in the town of Sheikh Idris in Idlib countryside on 26 March.

The report quoted two sources from the field hospital asserting that a 10-year-old boy was killed in the shelling and two children were seriously injured, one of who is nine years old and the other 10.

The report noted that residents of the area confirmed the absence of military targets in the vicinity of the school.

The report also referred to the shelling of a group of buildings, less than 100 meters far from each other, in the town of Saraqib in the countryside of Idlib. The compound includes Al-Hayat Hospital, Blood Bank, Ambulance Unit and Civil Defence Centre (White Helmets).

The shelling resulted in the closure of the hospital and the transfer of seriously ill patients to the neighbouring hospitals.

The report also mentioned the regime’s bombing of a hospital in the town of Talmans and a furnace in the city of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib countryside.

Maalouf pointed out that the killing and injury of civilians, through their deliberate targeting, and civilian targets is a “war crime.”

According to a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian regime and its allies committed 5,042 violations of the Sochi Agreement that reached a cease-fire in the Idlib region to reduce the escalation in northern Syria. The violations have been committed since the signing of the agreement on 27 September 2018 until 27 March 2019.

The province of Idlib, the northern Hama countryside and the western Aleppo countryside are a “de-escalation” zone under an agreement concluded in September 2017 between Turkey, Russia and Iran in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Since the beginning of this year, the attacks of Bashar Al-Assad regime and pro-Iranian terrorist groups have increased in the “de-escalation” zone, in violation of the Sochi Agreement.

The Syrian regime and pro-Iranian terrorist groups’ bombing of the “de-escalation” zone have killed at least 175 civilians and injured more than 480 since the beginning of this year.

Turkey and Russia signed the Sochi Agreement in September 2018 to consolidate the cease-fire in Idlib. Under this agreement, the opposition withdrew its heavy weapons from the zone covered by the accord on 10 October 2018.