Eight Civil Defense Members Killed in Kafr Zita City
SNHR has released a report entitled: “Syrian Russian Alliance Forces Deliberately Targeted Civil Defense Members in Hama Suburbs” which documents the details of the attack on a civil defense center in Kafr Zita city, northern Hama governorate, by Syrian-Russian alliance forces on April 29, 2017.
The report notes that since it was founded in March 2013, the civil defense organization, including its facilities, vehicles, and members, have been a target for systemic bombardment operations specifically by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces who steadily adopted the double strike strategy. According to the report, Syrian-Russian alliance forces have, as of this writing, killed no less than 153 civil defense members and have been responsible for 230 incidents of attack on civil defense facilities or vehicles since the organization was founded.
The report says that around 12:00 on Saturday, April 29, 2017, the fixed-wing warplanes of the Syrian-Russian alliance fired no less than two highly-explosive missiles, targeting civil defense center 107 in northern Kafr Zita city -on the road leading to Tal Aas village- which resulted in the killing of eight civil defense members. The attack was followed by a series of attacks that lasted for nearly four hours in which Syrian-Russian alliance forces used aerial weapons, ground launchers, and cluster munitions to target the vicinity of the civil defense 107 and the medical and civil defense teams who were conducing rescue operations. According to the report, civil defense center 109, which specializes in disposing of weapon remnants, was targeted by fixed-wing Syrian regime forces warplanes between 19:30 and 20:30, as its building was damaged.
The report didn’t declare either the Syrian regime or the Russian regime completely responsible for these attacks on account of the fact that both parties use the same weapons and warplanes, adding that the sky of the targeted areas was under the control of Syrian and Russian forces at the same time during the entire duration of the attack. The report draws upon interviews with 11 individuals, including five observatory workers, who work on picking up the warplanes’ radio signals and observe the movement of warplanes at military airbases. The report also analyses videos and pictures that were posted on social media, which shows the hole created by the missiles and unexploded PTAB-1M cluster submunitions remnants which were found in the bombed site.
The report notes the targeted areas are civilian areas, where no military bases or weapon warehouses for armed opposition factions or extremist Islamic groups were found before or during the attack. Also, Syrian regime forces didn’t issue a warning for the civilians prior to the attack, as the international humanitarian law requires.
The report stresses that Syrian-Russian alliance forces had the deliberate intention of inflicting as much material and human harm as possible, as the repeated attacks that allowed the destruction of the civil defense hindered the medical efforts and the process of pulling out victims. Rescue workers had to stop working several times in light of the airstrikes and the artillery shells that targeted the same place, and killed one paramedic.
The report notes that the Syrian-Russian alliance has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, they violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes.
Furthermore, the repot stresses that the bombardment mentioned in this report has targeted armless civilians. Therefore, Syrian-Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Additionally, these violations were perpetrated in a non-international armed conflict which amount to a war crime where all elements were fulfilled.
In addition, the report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps as Resolution 2139 has been adopted and no pledges to cease the indiscriminate bombardment operations have been made. All the parties to the conflict must respect the Resolutions and adhere to the rules of the international humanitarian law.
Also, the report emphasizes that the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 248/71 that was adopted on December 21, 2016 must be supported, local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction should be established, and the war crimes that have been committed in Syria must be prosecuted.
The report says that the Syrian case must be referred to the International Criminal Court, those who were involved must be held accountable, and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect have to be implemented in order to save the Syrian lives, culture, and art from being destroyed, stolen, and ruined. Lastly, the sanctions must be expanded to include the pillars of the Syrian and Iranian regimes who are directly involved in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.