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Syria regime bombed IDP camps despite evidence of civilian presence - report

July 17, 2023 at 2:02 pm

Syrians are seen at a refugee camp in Azaz district of Aleppo, Syria on April 10, 2022. [Bekir Kasim – Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has intentionally targeted makeshift camps inhabited by internally displaced persons (IDPs) in north-west Syria, according to a new report.

In the report, published by the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), it stated its findings that the regime and its allies conducted a significant number of deadly attacks on the IDP camps, with overwhelming evidence that they were aware of the sites being civilian and housing the displaced persons.

According to the report, there was sufficient intelligence gathered by regime forces prior to the dropping of barrel and cluster bombs that would have made the presence of IDPs in the camps clear. Citing the use of an archive of 2 million videos, SJAC said that it verified 17 incidents of attacks on camps, despite easily being identified as civilian from the air due to their “distinctive layouts and characteristic, blue-coloured tents”.

The camps targeted include those in the rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria’s north-west like the Al-Naqeer camp, which had already long been struggling with humanitarian crises such as frequent flooding and a lack of medical and healthcare access, food supplies and clean water.

READ: Assad family member admits to use of barrel bombs for ‘cleansing the earth of insects’

Witness testimonies collected by the SJAC reported that helicopters and aircraft belonging to the regime and its allies had been seen flying over and nearby the camps shortly before the attacks, with one witness stating that “We were watching the helicopter heading straight towards the camp and, while it was over the camp, it dropped a barrel bomb on the camp, and we saw it first-hand.”

They added that “The place where the barrel fell was on the outskirts of the camp. As usual, the helicopter returned to drop the second barrel, which fell right in the middle of the camp.” The witness recalled that people “started screaming over the scattered bodies that were in shreds and pieces due to the barrel bomb, all the tents were torn apart by pressure as if they never existed there. The civil defence and civilian cars came to aid the wounded and bury the dead.”

One attack on an IDP camp in the region resulted in the killing of 18 residents after being targeted by two barrel bombs, the SJAC report stated, although it was unable to confirm casualty figures.

According to the New Arab, an investigator told it that evidence gathered by the SJAC has been stored on a database for potential legal action against the regime and its allies in the future. Such action for now, however, reportedly remains limited.

“We hope that these investigations show the public and policymakers that Syria is not safe and refugees who are forced to return to the country will face real threats to their lives,” the investigator said.

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