PHOTO: Civilians recover belonging from building hit by Russian strike on Darat Izza in Aleppo Province, October 7, 2015 (Reuters)
The Violations Documentation Center, the leading source for civilian casualties in Syria’s conflict, has released a new report covering the first phase of Russia’s airstrikes from September 30 to October 30.
The report details 24 attacks and lists the civilian victims, including women and children, in areas held by the opposition. It notes that “more than 90% of Russian attacks” were on locations outside the control of the Islamic State, the supposed focus of Russian operations. These included areas in Latakia, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo Province and the suburbs of Damascus.
The VDC verified at least 526 civilian deaths, including 137 children and 71 women. In a single incident on October 30, at least 61 civilians were killed in opposition-held neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo city.
The report lists another 81 claimed attacks on civilian areas on which it could not gather details.
Systematic Attacks on Civilian Areas
Among the confirmed targets in the verified attacks were hospitals, mosques, schools, markets, shelters, and residential buildings.
The VDC’s details on strikes on field hospitals in Latamaneh and Kafrzita in Hama Province support the information of both Medicins Sans Frontieres and Physicians for Human Rights, who have reported on 10 to 12 Russian attacks on hospitals since September 30. The Russian Defense Ministry responded by saying, that in six cases, five of the hospitals did not exist and the other was undamaged.
The VDC also establishes that Russian warplanes hit the Omar Bin al-Khattab Mosque in Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib Province, killing two people — including the mosque’s imam — and wounding seven. The Russian Defense Ministry had claimed that reports of the attack were a “hoax” by Western media, but the VDC confirms that the Ministry used photographs of a different, undamaged mosque.
Among the other targets were crowded markets, including one in Killi in Idlib Province where four people died on October 23.
The VDC concludes, “The attacks reviewed appear to form a pattern of attacking civilian places and populations.
The consistency with which civilian places have been targeted makes it more likely that the RFAF [Russian Air Force] was not directing the attack on any specific military objective.”
Attacks with Cruise Missiles and Cluster Munitions
The VDC notes that Russia’s high-profile attacks with cruise missiles on October 7 killed at least five civilians and wounded 15 in Darat Izza in Aleppo Province and killed at least 10 civilians and injured six. There was no rebel military presence in either location.
Among the documented Russian attacks with cluster munitions is a raid near Hayyan in Aleppo Province, where at least 150 bomblets from three airstrikes exploded on impact, and on the al-Myaser section of Aleppo city.