United Nations (UN) officials have alleged that Syria and Russia are likely to be deliberately targeting civilian facilities such as schools and hospitals in the opposition-held province of Idlib.
Mark Lowcock, the UN aid chief, who informed the UN Security Council since April that there were 26 incidents in which healthcare facilities were effected in Idlib, as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A primary factor in the destruction or damage of these civilian facilities is the fact that they often share and provide their coordinates to military officials involved in the conflict area in the good faith that they will be spared from the artillery and air strikes. In Idlib, however, this seems to have been the complete opposite course of action taken by the Syrian regime and Russian militaries.
“Hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN’s de-confliction system is simply intolerable,” stated Lowcock. This, he said, has discouraged these facilities from sharing their coordinate, as they “have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorising people,” and that sharing their coordinates merely “paints a target on their back”.
Russia and the Syrian regime have denied these reports, with the Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia claiming that “we decisively reject any accusation of indiscriminate strikes. We’re not carrying out attacks on civilians.” The Syrian Ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari also added that “Syrians and allies do not target schools or hospitals.”
A number of other ambassadors to the UN have suggested their confirmations that the reports are true, however, such as Belgian Ambassador Marc Pecsteen who said that “even in the fight against terrorism, there is no reason to target a school or a hospital.” The German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, also stated that “many of those in the civilian infrastructure have stopped giving coordinates because they are concerned giving the coordinate means maybe those people who shouldn’t get the coordinates receive them and use them.”
Since the beginning of May, Syrian regime forces with the backing of Russia have been conducting an all-out air and ground assault on southern Idlib and northern Hama, killing hundreds and destroying numerous schools, hospitals and health clinics. This has broken the ceasefire and deal to make Idlib a de-escalation zone as agreed last year by Russia, Turkey and Iran, and has created a humanitarian crisis within the north-western province of Syria.