Geneva: Researchers from the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday that Syrian and Russian planes have carried out deadly air strikes on schools, hospitals and markets in Idlib province, a war crime. The report also condemned the attacks by Islamic militants.
They said the pro-government forces carried out “random bombing” of a ceasefire with Turkey in March, which claimed hundreds of lives and forced a million civilians to flee, potentially a crime against humanity.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has also accused jihadist group Hayat Tallir Sham (HTS), which controls parts of northwestern Syria, for firing artillery with no legitimate military purpose.
It added that HTS fighters had tortured and executed the prisoners, a group previously known as Nusra Front.
“All sides likely committed war crimes,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel, told a news briefing.
“Children were shelled at school, parents were shelled at the market, patients were shelled at the hospital. Entire families were bombarded, even while fleeing these attacks.”
The report, covering November 2019 until June 2020, was based on overflight data and witness testimony.
It examines 52 “emblematic attacks” in northwest Syria, including 47 attributed to the Russian-backed Syrian government.
“We document two incidents in the report where we think it was Russian airplanes that conducted those attacks,” said panel member Hanny Megally.
The report said Russian warplanes were solely implicated in a deadly March 5 strike on a poultry farm near Marat Misrin that sheltered displaced people, and in three strikes that damaged a hospital in the rebel-held town of Ariha on Jan. 29.
Russia denied involvement in the latter’s attack.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied many of the United Nations’ previous allegations of war crimes.
The area is home to Islamic militant groups and opposition groups, many of whom fled other areas of Syria, such as Assad, with Russian support, and recaptured the territory from them in a nine-year conflict.
Researchers from the United Nations urged the superpowers to open wider humanitarian aid corridors to help 1.5 million people trapped in close tents not entering Turkey.
The UN Security Council allowed cross-border assistance operations from two locations in Turkey to July 10 in January, and the committee will vote on Friday to extend this deadline.