A man carries a girl away from site of pro-Assad attack, Idlib Province, Syria, May 2019

Russia has blocked a UN Security Council statement of alarm about the killing of civilians in northwest Syria and the possibility of a humanitarian disaster.

A Council diplomat confirmed that Moscow had halted any condemnation of the attacks on civilians. The bombing and shelling have accompanied a May 6 Russia-Assad regime offensive trying to recapture parts of Idlib and northern Hama Provinces. The last major opposition area is home to an estimated three million people — about 20% of Syria’s remaining population.

Since April 28, about 300 civilians have been killed by the bombardment. Hundreds more have been wounded and more displaced, bringing the total to more than 300,000. Almost 30 medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged.

The offensive initially seized several towns in northwest Hama, but has been checked by counter-attacks by rebels and the Islamist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Blocking a “Simple” Statement

After multiple briefings of the Council last week, Belgium, Kuwait and Germany proposed the expression of concern, which also covered attacks by anti-Assad groups on regime positions in northern Hama. The statement called for humanitarian access, safe return for refugees, and observance of international humanitarian law to protect civilians.

“It was really simple,” Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said.

But a diplomat said the Russians objected on Monday. The Russian UN mission did not respond to an inquiry about the episode.

Throughout the 98-month Syrian conflict, Russia has vetoed 12 Security Council resolutions to criticize, check, and/or punish its ally, the Assad regime.

Last month, 11 of the 15 Council members issued a statement last month that also expressed concern about the escalating attacks in the northwest and the potential for humanitarian catastrophe. Russia, China, South Africa, and Indonesia refused to join the statement.

Kuwait’s al-Otaibi, whose country holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, said discussions will continue.

Doctors to Halt Sharing of Hospital Coordinates

Doctors are halting the sharing of coordinates of medical facilities in the northwest after Russia and the regime attacks some of hospitals and clinics.

Coordinates were given to the UN, to pass to the Russian military, of nine facilities that were subsequently attacked.

“Most of the partners will never again share their coordinates with the UN because it is not working,” said Dr Mohamed Zahid of Physicians Across Continents.

An open letter by dozens of doctors said the Russian-regime attacks “have forced the hospitals to operate under a state of emergency, only treating the most urgent cases and unable to take in patients for routine care”.

Physicians for Human Rights has documented more than 500 attacks on more than 350 facilities during Syria’s conflict.