Russian airstrikes on Syria's Idlib could amount to war crimes: human rights monitor

Russian airstrikes on Syria's Idlib could amount to war crimes: human rights monitor
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has called for action to stop military escalation in northwest Syria following a Russian strike which killed 13 people in Idlib province.
3 min read
26 June, 2023
A plume of smoke rises from a building targeted by Russian airstrikes in the Idlib governorate, Syria [Getty]

Deadly Russian airstrikes that targeted civilian areas in northwest Syria over the weekend could amount to war crimes, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has said in a statement.

At least 13 people, including nine civilians, were killed in a series of Russian airstrikes in rebel-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria. It was one of the bloodiest days in the region in months and happened despite a ceasefire being in place.

Sources close to the Syrian regime said the airstrikes were in response to rebel drone strikes which targeted regime-held areas in recent days.

However, the Euro-Med monitor said that the Russian attack did not respect the principles of international humanitarian law, saying no military necessity can justify the heavy loss of civilian life, even if a military unit was the target of the airstrike.

It said the attack was disproportionate and did not distinguish between civilians and alleged militants.

Euro-Med added that the latest airstrikes were part of a major military escalation in the region which it has been monitoring for a week and has led to the deaths of several civilians, including women and children.

"The Russian and Syrian [regime] forces continue to target civilians without fear of accountability, because the international community has not shown a firm response to confront the horrific human rights violations throughout the 12 years of ongoing conflict in Syria," said Anas Jerjawi, the CEO of Euro-Med.

"The double standards in international reactions to the violations of Russian forces in Syria and their similar violations in Ukraine have shown that humanity can be fragmented for decision-makers in Western countries, and that political interests and national and ethnic backgrounds may govern reactions to human tragedies," he added, according to the statement.

Jerjawi said a flare up in fighting will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria and add pressure on NGOs already suffering from severe funding shortages where around 1.8 million people are internally displaced.

Swathes of northwestern Syria, in particular the Idlib and Aleppo governorates, were heavily hit in the 6 February earthquake which struck southeastern Turkey, burying thousands under the rubble and destroying entire towns and villages.

 The catastrophe added onto an already miserable situation in the region, where millions of people live in makeshift IDP camps and where infrastructure including hospitals and schools has deliberately been targeted in previous Russian and regime strikes.

Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to back the Assad regime and has since provided it with critical military, intelligence and financial support, enabling it to regain control of most of the country.