In recent months, Russian aircrafts, as well as Syrian government planes, have carried out regular airstrikes against schools and hospitals in the provinces of Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo in northwestern Syria. This was revealed in the latest report from the human rights organization Amnesty International, which was made available to Meduza.
All total, Russian and Syrian troops attacked 53 medical facilities and 95 schools between April 30, 2019 and February 29, 2020, Amnesty International reports. These attacks were mainly carried out by air, although the Syrian army carried out separate attacks on the ground. Notably, many of the targeted locations were included in the UN’s database as the locations of hospitals, schools, and other buildings used for humanitarian purposes. The database is meant to inform all parties to the conflict of these civilian locations, so as to avoid targeted attacks.
According to the NGO Syrian Child Protection Network, Russian and Syrian forces attacked 28 schools during the months of January and February 2020 alone. Many of these schools had not stopped educational activities. On February 25, 10 schools were immediately destroyed in a single day. Amnesty International alsosays that the Syrian Air Force carried out an attack in the city of Idlib during school hours, while in the small city of Ma’arrat Misrin, an attack on a school that was being used as a shelter left 11 people dead, including seven children, and injured 40 others.
In total, human rights defenders documented 18 of these attacks in detail, gathering testimonies from 74 witnesses — including, doctors, teachers, and humanitarian workers, — examining video recordings and photographs of the events, as well as analyzing satellite images, and intercepted conversations between pilots from the Russian and Syrian air forces. This data confirms that many of Russia’s actions in the region, as well as those of Assad’s army, constitute war crimes, Amnesty International says.
In general, Amnesty International describes what has been happening in northwestern Syria in the past year as an “unprecedented” humanitarian emergency, “even by the standards of this catastrophic, nine-year crisis.” According to the organization’s data, nearly one million people have been forced to leave their homes due to the Syrian army’s ongoing offensive in the rebel-controlled territories of Idlib.