The destroyed hospital of Kafr Nabl, Idlib's countryside, in Syria | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/YAHYA NEMAH
The destroyed hospital of Kafr Nabl, Idlib's countryside, in Syria | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/YAHYA NEMAH

A report issued May 10 by Amnesty International has accused Russia and the Syrian government of committing war crimes in northwestern Syria. The human rights organization urged the UN not to cut humanitarian aid to the area.

Amnesty International said in a May 10 report that Syrian government and Russian forces had targeted schools and medical facilities in Syrian opposition-held areas of Idlib, western Aleppo and Hama in the northwestern part of the country in 18 recorded incidents between January and February 2020. 

The incidents, it noted, are an example of how Syrian and Russian forces continue to deliberate hit civilians and civilian objectives, which constitutes a serious violation of international humanitarian law and are war crimes for which the perpetrators are responsible before the law.

In the report, entitled 'Nowhere is safe for us: Unlawful attacks and mass displacement in north-west Syria', the organization calls on the UN not to cut vital aid for civilians amid war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against them in northwestern Syria. 

It noted that a resolution enabling humanitarian aid to reach Idlib through Syrian borders will expire in the coming weeks. 

Attacks on hospitals and schools 

The report noted that the attacks documented in the offensive prior to a March 5 ceasefire in Idlib had led to almost 1 million people -- many of whom had previously been displaced repeatedly and 80% of whom were women and children -- fleeing again and forced to survive in disastrous living conditions in recent months.

Amnesty International interviewed 74 people including IDPs, teachers, doctors and humanitarian aid workers for the report. The testimonies were corroborated by videos and photographs as well as analysis of satellite images, reports by flight observers and wiretaps of flight communications of the Russian and Syrian Air Force. 

According to the Idlib health directorate, Syrian and Russian attacks damaged or destroyed 10 medical facilities in Idlib and opposition-held areas of Aleppo between December 2019 and February 2020, killing nine medical personnel. Dozens of other medical facilities were forced to shut down entirely. 

According to the Hurras Network for Syrian child protection, 28 schools were hit by air and ground attacks in January and February 2020. Ten schools were targeted in a single day -- February 25 -- killing nine civilians. 

UN urged not to cut aid to NW 

"Even by the standards of Syria's calamitous nine-year crisis, the displacement and humanitarian emergency sparked by the latest onslaught on Idlib has been unprecedented. The UN Security Council must not cut the vital lifeline of cross-border humanitarian aid while thousands of lives hang in the balance," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

The report noted that, in July 2014, the UN Security Council had unanimously passed a resolution ''authorizing cross-border aid into north-west Syria and other parts of the country held by armed opposition groups, without requiring the consent of the Syrian government. The resolution has been repeatedly extended since then -- although with extreme difficulty in recent years and a reduction of scope in January 2020. It is due to expire on 10 July.'' 

Syria and its allies are ''seeking to end this arrangement and channel aid through Damascus instead, which would make it very difficult for the UN and its humanitarian partners to deliver timely and sustained aid'', Amnesty International said. (Picture shows 

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