Eight Civilians Killed in an IDP-Housing School in Tafas city
SNHR has released a report entitled “IDPs in Daraa Suburbs Massacred by Syrian Regime Forces” which documents a massacre against IDPs who took shelter in a school in Tafas city, Daraa on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The report notes that the Syrian regime never hesitated to perpetrated whatever was in its power to halt the eruption of the popular uprising and terrorize its popular base. We have recorded hundreds of incidents where schools were bombed at times when children and teachers were present. Additionally, schools were bombed outside of school hours in many cases in order to destroy them and displace the children who study there. In late-2012, when the rates of destroyed houses had alarmingly skyrocketed, residents took shelter in out-of-commission schools, and lived there in huge populations. However, this didn’t mean they wouldn’t be bombed and killed, and, on the contrary, we believe, at this point, that overcrowding was the reason they were targeted and killed in the hopes of submitting the Syrian people.
The report documents that no less than 1,346 schools have been targeted by the parties to the conflict since the start of the popular uprising at the time of the incident.. The Syrian regime and its Russian ally top all other parties by targeting approximately 87% of all the targeted schools, while the remaining parties (the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, extremist Islamic groups, armed opposition factions, and international coalition forces) were responsible for 13%. All of these attacks were against schools that were not being used for military purposes, and no military activities were recorded in the proximity of these schools. Therefore, all of the recorded incidents we have constitute explicit violations of the international humanitarian law. These attacks resulted in the killing of 184 children, who were inside or near these schools, and 39 teaching staff members.
The report sheds light on the fact that some of the schools in the Syrian regime-held areas have been turned into detention and torture centers, while large numbers of schools in the areas that are not under the Syrian regime control have been used as centers to house tens of thousands of IDPs.
The report draws upon a number of accounts by residents from Tafas city, eyewitnesses, and survivors, where the report contains two accounts. Also, the report contains verified pictures and videos that show the great destruction in the aftermath of the bombardment, in addition to pictures showing wounded children.
According to the report, the targeted areas were civilian areas where no military centers or weapon warehouses for armed opposition factions or extremist Islamic groups were found before or during the attack. We also didn’t record that the school building makes any active contributions to any acts of war. Furthermore, Syrian regime forces didn’t alarm the civilians before the attack as required by the international humanitarian law.
The report says that around 13:00, fixed-wing Syrian regime forces warplanes fired a missile in southern Tafas city, western suburbs of Daraa governorate, targeting the Martyr Yousef Kiwan School, which is housed by three IDP families from Ataman town, which resulted in the killing of eight civilians, including one child and one woman. Additionally, seven civilians were wounded, including four children and two women.
The report adds that the city saw a series of artillery attacks by Syrian regime forces that targeted a number of locations in the city prior to the airstrike. The artillery shelling resulted in the killing of the female child “Heba al Hasan” and wounded another civilian. One of the attacks targeted the school as well about an hour before the airstrike. This tactic has been used fairly commonly by the Syrian regime, where an area is targeted with mortar and artillery shells before targeting it using the air arsenal in order to dictate the coordinates of the area that is to be targeted, or to inflict as much human losses as possible by targeting the same area twice.
The report notes that the Syrian regime 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 regime 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.