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UN: Attacks on civilians in northwestern Syria are 'war crimes'

July 26, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Civil defence crews remove a dead body from the scene after airstrikes by Assad Regime and Russia’s warplanes hit the de-escalation zone of Kafriya village in Idlib, Syria on 13 July 2019 [Ahmet Weys/Anadolu Agency]

The UN human rights chief said intentional attacks against civilians in northwestern Syria were war crimes, referring to the latest onslaught by the Bashar al-Assad regime and its allies, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a video statement by Michelle Bachelet released by the UN on Friday, Bachelet called alarm to international indifference to the rising civilian death toll caused by a succession of airstrikes in Idlib and other parts of northern Syria.

“Despite repeated calls by the UN to respect the principle of precaution and distinction in the conduct of hostilities, this latest relentless campaign by the government [Bashar al-Assad regime] and its allies has continued to hit medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure such as markets and bakeries,” said the statement, read by spokesman Rupert Colville.

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It added that it was increasingly unlikely that these targets were hit accidentally, given the persistent pattern.

“Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes and those who have ordered them or carried them out are criminally responsible for their actions,” Bachelet stressed.

At least 12 civilians were killed in a Russian airstrike Thursday on residential areas in a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria.

Areas that fall within the de-escalation zones in the provinces of Idlib, Hama and Aleppo were subject to intense regime and Russian airstrikes, as well as shelling.

The death toll in the de-escalation zone since Monday has risen to 79.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.

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The de-escalation zone is currently inhabited by about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the regime forces from their cities and towns throughout the war-weary country over recent years.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.