Geneva – The airstrikes on civilian areas in Idlib countryside on Sunday morning, which killed a large number of civilians, may amount to a war crime, Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement.
Warplanes believed to be Russian launched several airstrikes after 10:00 am local time in the vicinity of Idlib, one of which targeted a vegetable market near the sugar factory east of Jisr al-Shughur. The strikes killed about nine civilians and injured 30 others, some of whom were left in critical condition. Tens of vegetable-laden trucks were gathered in the market at the time of the bombing, resulting in the deaths and injury of vendors and shoppers, the destruction of large quantities of vegetables, and damage to a nearby school.
The attack on Jisr al-Shughur violated international humanitarian law principles, particularly the principles of necessity, proportionality, and distinction, because no military necessity can justify the heavy civilian casualties caused by the attack. Even if the pretext was the presence of a military target, which was not confirmed, the attack was disproportionate and failed to distinguish between civilians and alleged militants.
Simultaneously, over 20 airstrikes targeted other areas including Jabal al-Arba’in, the vicinity of Banin village in Idlib countryside, and the Kabina Hills in Latakia countryside, resulting in intense overflights of fighter jets and warplanes across these areas. The attacks are part of a major military escalation in the region that has been raging for about a week, said Euro-Med Monitor. Since last Sunday, the organisation has documented over 12 air and artillery attacks on areas in the city of Idlib, its countryside, and the western countryside of Aleppo. The latest attacks have left at least six civilians dead, including women and children, and dozens more injured; these figures do not include the victims of the 25 June attacks.
According to Syrian government-affiliated websites, the airstrikes target armed groups and come in response to missile attacks targeting areas controlled by the Syrian regime in the countrysides of Latakia and Hama provinces in recent days. “Russian and Syrian forces continue to target civilians without fear of accountability, because the international community has failed to firmly respond to the horrific human rights violations that have occurred in Syria over the past 12 years,” said Anas Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operating Officer.
“Double standards in international reactions to Russian forces’ violations in Syria and similar violations in Ukraine have demonstrated that, for Western decision-makers, humanity can be divisible,” Jerjawi added, emphasising that “political interests and national/ethnic backgrounds can govern responses to human tragedies”.
The military escalation in north-western Syria is accompanied by a worsening of humanitarian conditions for the millions of people who live there, including about 1.8 million displaced people. International relief organisations have reduced humanitarian response efforts over the past year due to a lack of funding, contributing to widespread poverty, a sharp increase in food insecurity, and the health system’s inability to provide medical services to a population made vulnerable by the conflict’s direct and indirect repercussions.
Continued air and artillery attacks by Syrian and Russian forces on areas of north-western Syria may result in a new wave of military escalation by the region’s armed opposition groups, inevitably exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and increasing pressure on humanitarian facilities already exhausted by the conflict.
Euro-Med Monitor urges all parties, particularly Russian and Syrian forces, to immediately and completely halt all forms of military escalation in north-western Syria, fully adhere to relevant international humanitarian law principles, and protect civilians from military operations. The international community and relevant UN institutions must take effective and decisive action in response to human rights violations in Syria, ensuring accountability for violators and justice for victims.