White Helmets rescue a boy injured in Assad regime shelling of Idlib Province, February 24, 2019

Amnesty International has issued a report detailing the Assad regime’s assault on civilians — including on schools, hospitals and other infrastructure — in opposition-held Idlib Province.

The regime has regularly broken the demilitarized zone declared last autumn by Russia and Turkey. It stepped up the shelling from mid-February, killing at least 170 civilians and displacing tens of thousands. Areas such as Khan Sheikhoun have been turned into “ghost towns”.

Russia has also carried out airstrikes despite its proclamation of the 15- to 20-km wide zone, using the pretext that it is targeting “terrorists”. Rebels have retaliated in northern Hama Province with attacks on regime checkpoints.

In the latest regime shelling, a school was struck in Sheikh Idriss, killing a 10-year-old boy and injuring two other children.

Attacks earlier in the month damaged medical facilities, including Al-Hayat hospital, a blood bank and an ambulance response unit in Saraqeb on March 9.

Amnesty compiled the report from 13 witnesses and analyses of video evidence, satellite imagery, and open source information. Lynn Maalouf, the Middle East Director, summarized, “The Syrian government continues to show utter disregard for the laws of war and the lives of civilians.”

More than 3 million people — about 20% of Syria’s remaining population — live in Idlib and northern Hama.

Sara Akhtib, a student at Idlib University, said:

The bombing is every day, it’s by both [the] regime and Russia. I hear the sound of the planes every day when I am hiding in my house. I hate it.

People are very afraid that the ceasefire will not last. We have nowhere to go unless Turkey lets refugees in and I don’t know if they will do that.

Amnesty’s Maalouf noted the parallels suggesting the regime will not stop until it forces the capitulation of the opposition-held northwest:

The ongoing attacks in Idlib fit the same pattern we’ve seen before, in Aleppo, Daraa, Damascus Countryside, whereby Syrian government forces hit hospitals, medical facilities, emergency responders, bakeries, schools, leaving people no choice but to flee.