Russia and the Assad regime renewed airstrikes on opposition-held northwest Syria on Wednesday, as Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the Russian-regime attacks as “war crimes”.

Tuesday’s missile strikes were on civilian areas in the Jisr al-Shughour region of western Idlib Province, nominally under a ceasefire agreed by Russia and Turkey on March 5.

Pro-opposition activists reported at least three people killed and 13 injured.

The White Helmets civil defense also reported regime shelling of the town of Kansafra.

Claims circulated of about 4,000 civilians fleeing to towns such as Salqin and Darkush in Idlib Province and Afrin in neighboring Aleppo Province.

A Russian-regime offensive from April 2019 to March 2020 killed about 2,000 civilians and wounded thousands as it advanced through northern Hama Province and parts of Idlib. More than 1.4 million civilians were displaced.

The offensive was checked by the March agreement between Russian and Turkish leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but Russia has periodically bombed areas in Idlib and western Aleppo Provinces. Regime forces did not stop shelling, and there have been clashes between pro-Assad troops and anti-Assad factions in southern Idlib near the border with Hama Province.

“May Amount to Crimes Against Humanity”

For its 167-page report, Human Rights Watch investigated dozens of air and ground strikes on civilian targets during the Russian-regime offensive.
The document, “Targeting Life in Idlib”, compiles witness testimony, hundreds of photographs and satellite images, and flight spotter logs to examine 46 bombing incidents.

HRW concluded that the strikes are “apparent war crimes, and may amount to crimes against humanity”.

The organization’s head Kenneth Roth summarized to Reuters, “They hit hospitals, schools, markets, residential areas. Not just inadvertently, not while they were trying to target the so-called terrorists, but deliberately.”

The report cites 10 senior Russian and Syrian officials as responsible. They include Bashar al-Assad, Putin and their top military commanders.

Neither the Assad regime nor the Kremlin responded to HRW’s request for a reply.

Roth called on the international community to press for accountability: “It’s really only by following up and ensuring that these people who have overseen these war crimes, do not get away with impunity, that there are consequences for pursuing this war crime strategy.”