Amnesty International on Monday accused the Syrian regime and its Russian ally of "war crimes" after documenting 18 attacks in the past year against schools and medical centers in northwestern Syria. This region where the province of Idleb is located, the last great jihadist bastion and rebel of the country at war, has benefited from a precarious cease-fire since the beginning of March, after several months of a deadly offensive of the regime supported by the aviation of Moscow.
The operation relaunched in December, which was accompanied by almost daily air strikes, claimed nearly a million IDPs, but also nearly 500 civilian deaths, according to the Syrian Observatory of human rights (OSDH). Between May 5, 2019 and February 25, 2020, Amnesty International claims to have documented 18 attacks on medical facilities and schools, carried out by Bashar al-Assad or Russian forces.
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"The evidence shows that, as a whole, the documented attacks by Syrian and Russian government forces involve a myriad of serious violations of international humanitarian law," criticizes Amnesty. "These violations are tantamount to war crimes , " added the London-based organization. The NGO accuses the regime and Russian forces of "intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools" .
The majority of the attacks, against Idleb but also against insurgent territories in the neighboring provinces of Aleppo or Hama, took place in January and February 2020, Amnesty said. The NGO refers to Russian aerial bombardments near a hospital in the city of Ariha on January 29 which destroyed at least two residential buildings and killed 11 civilians. Amnesty accuses the regime of attacking a school in the town of Idleb on 25 February with cluster munitions - prohibited by international law - and thus killed three people.
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"The latest offensive has perpetuated a heinous pattern of widespread and systematic attacks, the aim of which is to terrorize the civilian population , " deplored Amnesty regional director Heba Morayef, quoted in a statement. "Russia has continued to provide invaluable military support (to the regime) -especially by directly conducting illegal air strikes" and this support "facilitates" the "war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian army" , she lambasted.
The Idleb region is home to three million civilians, half of whom have already been displaced from other regions recaptured by the regime. The war in Syria, launched in 2011 with the repression by the power of pro-democracy protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions of people.