Red Cross: “The worst levels of violence since the battle for Aleppo in 2016”
The UN has denounced airstrikes across Syria, calling the civilian toll last month the worst this year.
“September was the deadliest month of 2017 for civilians with daily reports of attacks on residential areas resulting in hundreds of conflict-related deaths and injuries,” UN regional humanitarian coordinator Panos Moumtzis said.
The UN noted that hospitals, schools and displaced Syrians fleeing frontlines have been “targeted by direct air strikes” that may amount to war crimes.
The organization did not apportion blame, but airstrikes are being carried out by Russian and regime warplanes on opposition areas as well as on Islamic State, and by the US-led coalition supporting a Kurdish-led offensive against ISIS in northern Syria.
The large majority of the deaths this year have been by Russian and regime attacks, which have been renewed since September 19 on opposition-held Idlib Province, killing more than 200 people as they defiance a “de-escalation zone” which Moscow declared last month alongside Turkey and Iran.
The Russians have also been attacking in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria as pro-Assad forces face the Islamic State. On Wednesday, as the regime’s military and foreign allies tried to push back an ISIS counter-offensive, Russian jets reportedly killed more than 60 civilians trying to flee in small boats across the Euphrates River south of Deir ez-Zor city.
The Russian and regime strikes are continuing on Friday with reports of dozens of civilian casualties. Images of damage have been posted on social media:
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About a quarter of civilian deaths this year, up to mid-September, were at the hands of the US-led coalition, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Airstrikes backing the offensive of the Syrian Democratic Forces on ISIS-held Raqqa city have killed hundreds of civilians.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that up to 10 hospitals have been damaged in the past 10 days.
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“We have seen a number of hospitals being targeted, we got very worrying reports and converging reports about hospitals, schools, civilian infrastructure being targeted,” Robert Mardini, the ICRC regional director for the Middle East, told Reuters.
Most of the damaged hospitals, as well as civil defense centers and power stations, have been struck by the Russian-regime assault on Idlib Province.
Mardini noted the destruction of Sham hospital alone had cut off 500,000 people from access to health care.
Also citing Russian-regime strikes on northern Hama Province and on opposition-held Damascus suburbs, the Red Cross summarized, “Taken together, these are the worst levels of violence since the battle for Aleppo in 2016.”
Russia: ISIS Operating Out of US Exclusion Zone in East
In its latest PR attempt to pressure the US, Russia has declared that the Islamic State is operating out of an American exclusion zone around a Free Syrian Army base in eastern Syria.
The US military has enforced a 55-km (34-mile) zone around the base at Tanf on the Iraqi border, where there are American special forces as well as FSA units. On three occasions this spring, the Americans carried out airstrikes on pro-Assad forces, including Hezbollah and Iranian-led militias, which tried to establish positions inside the area.
The US is barring the FSA from attacking pro-Assad units and insisting on a focus on ISIS; however, American military commanders are worrying that a complete takeover of the area by regime and its allies would allow free movement of Iranian personnel and supplies through the east.
Without producing evidence, the Russian Defense Ministry declared Friday that a 100-km (62-mile) area around Tanf is a “black hole” from which ISIS attacks regime troops and civilians.
In an apparent campaign to clear the FSA and the Americans from the area, the Ministry asserted:
Unlawful establishment by the US of this military base on Syria-Jordan border in April this year has been publicly justified by ‘the need to conduct operations against IS….
There were no reports of a single American operation against Islamic State during the six months of its existence.
The ministry also accused the US — again, without any support — of not letting humanitarian convoys through the area to reach the Rukban camp for displaced Syrians on the Syrian-Jordanian border.
Major General Igor Konashenkov pronounced that the displaced are a “human shield” for the Tanf base.