UN calls for inquiry over Assad regime’s bombing of hospitals, villages in Idlib


Syrian medics check the damage at the ‘Sham Surgical’ hospital, in Idlib province [Getty]

Thu 01 August 2019:

Ten member countries of the U.N. Security Council have called for an inquiry concerning the attacks on hospitals and villages in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday. “The over 90-day-long bombings of Russia and the Syrian regime have caused carnage in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone,” said U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock on Tuesday. “There is no mystery or secret or uncertainty about what’s happening in Idlib; there’s testimony from countless sources about hospitals being hit, schools being hit, bakeries being destroyed… of whole villages being destroyed,” said Lowcock. He also pointed out that almost all existing buildings have been demolished in the past three months.

“Satellite images show that 17 villages have been nearly completely destroyed and cleared out,” he said.

Upon the ceaseless attacks on the de-escalation zone in Idlib, members expressed their concerns and acted by demanding U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres call an inquiry into those responsible for it.

In a letter to the secretary-general, the ambassadors of the U.S., U.K., France, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru and Poland called on investigations to look into the attacks on civilians and medical facilities.

Russia, China oppose inquiry

Meanwhile, Russia and China did not join the appeal for an inquiry and drew remarkable attention. “If the Russian-Syrian alliance has used those coordinates to target hospitals, that would be a war crime, and those responsible should be held accountable for their gruesome actions,” said Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), adding that the U.N. had provided hospitals to ensure safety and that those life-saving facilities had been bombed.

Despite statements by the EU and thej U.S. condemning the deadly attacks on Idlib last week, Russia and the Bashar Assad regime have continued their undertakings in the region.

“We call on Russia and Assad to stop exacerbating this humanitarian disaster, to abide by a cease-fire and to return to the political process immediately,” said U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, referring to the attack at the Maarat al-Numan market last week. The EU also called for attacks on civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, schools and water facilities by the Syrian regime and its backers to stop.

Investigating and reporting the human rights abuses in Syria and the whole world, HRW also supported the appeal that those responsible should be held accountable for their gruesome acts.

781 civilians killed in past 3 months

Meanwhile, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced that the Bashar Assad regime and its Russian backers have caused the deaths of 781 civilians in their attacks from April 26 to July 27. There were “33 massacres conducted within the mentioned period,” the SNHR said. The SNHR describes the death of more than five people in an attack as a “massacre.” Among the 781 civilians who lost their lives, 140 were women, while 208 were children.

Subsequently, the refugee crisis continues to grow bigger as people have to leave zones subject to attacks. Since the Syrian regime launched its offensive in Idlib in late April, more than 600 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The heavy bombing of rural villages has so far displaced 440,000 people, who have headed to the safety of areas closer to the border with Turkey, the latest U.N. estimate shows.

“They are taking revenge on our popular support that has stood by us,” said Naji Mustafa, the spokesman for the National Liberation Front (NLF) coalition of opposition groups. He described the raids as “systematic terror by the Assad gangs and Russian forces.”

Lastly, the death toll from attacks by regime forces and Russian warplanes in the de-escalation zone in northern Syria on Monday rose to 15, according to sources with the White Helmets civil defense agency.

According to local sources, five civilians were killed in the town of Kafr Zita and two others in Latmeen in the morning in central Hama province. During the attacks in the evening, eight more civilians including a civil defense official were killed.

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

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet last week denounced the “apparent international indifference” to the mounting civilian casualties.

Even though an agreement was reached to establish peace and security in the region of Idlib and its surroundings, this decision was never put into practice by Russia and the regime. The Sochi agreement was reached last September by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, declaring Idlib a de-escalation zone. However, incidents, especially since April 26, show that Russia did not hold up its end of the bargain.

Turkey, Russia and Iran declared Idlib and its surroundings as a de-escalation zone at the Astana meeting in May 2017. Amid ongoing cease-fire violations by the regime, Turkey and Russia reached a further agreement in Sochi in 2018.

Following eight months of relative calm provided by the deal, the Syrian regime intensified its attacks on April 26 under the pretext of fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists holed up in Idlib.

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