Russian Forces Kill 36 Civilians, including 20 Children, in Urm al Kubra village, Western Suburbs of Aleppo
Idlib governorate and its vicinity have been the target of an alarming military escalation which started on August 10, 2018, as Syrian regime forces started mobilizing in the villages of northern Hama suburbs and launching air and land attacks that targeted villages and towns in southern suburbs of Idlib and eastern suburbs of Hama, most of which targeted civilian residents. Those attacks aimed to terrorize and send the residents into a state of panic to drive them to flee north or submit.
A report released today by SNHR notes that the offensive on Idlib governorate and its vicinity sends a message of terrorization and blood to north Syria and constitutes a different case given its nature and implication, as Idlib governorate and its vicinities houses approximately 3.8 million people who settled there after they were displaced from their hometowns in Eastern Ghouta, Daraa, northern suburbs of Homs governorate, and other areas. The majority of those refuses going back to Syrian regime-held areas fearing a fate of death, arrest, enforced-disappearance and looting.
The report also outlines the details of a massacre perpetrated by Russian forces in Urm al Kubra village, western suburbs of Aleppo governorate, noting that this massacre and the military operations by the Syrian regime on the suburbs of Aleppo and Hama governorates, as well as Idlib governorate, have resulted in the killing of 106 civilians, including 29 children, 13 women (adult female), and one unborn fetus since August 10, 2018 as of this writing. According to the report, no less than 48,000 civilians have fled the villages al Tah, Tahtaya, and al Khwein villages in southern suburbs of Idlib. Most of the IDPs live in camps and shelters that alarmingly lack the most basic services.
On a related note, the report talks about the Syrian regime’s criminal record who repeatedly targeted IDPs camps and even displacement routes and conveys. The report stresses that there are no equipped camps to protect those IDPs in case they were deliberately targeted by the Syrian regime, demanding that UN peace-keeping forces enter the area to protect them.
The report draws upon accounts from victims’ families, survivors, paramedics, and central signal operators, as the report contains five accounts, in addition to analyzing videos and pictures posted online, or sent by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. These pictures show the attack site, the huge destruction in the aftermath of the bombing, victims’ dead bodies, and people who were injured in the attack.
According to the report, the targeted areas were civilian areas where no military bases or armories for armed opposition factions or extremist Islamic groups were found during or even before the attacks. Also, Russian forces have failed to alert the civilians prior to the attack as required by the international humanitarian law.
The report says that two fixed-wing warplanes we believe were Russian carried out three attacks in which no less than eight highly-explosive missiles were used on Friday, August 10, 2018, between 18:31 and 18:52. The airstrikes targeted a residential area in western Urm al Kubra vullage. The bombing resulted in the killing of 36 civilians, including 20 children and seven women (adult female). Additionally, no less than 45 others were wounded, while 25 residential buildings at least were completely destroyed.
The report stresses that the Russian regime has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be ceased. Also, the Russian regime has violated, through the crime of willful killing, Articles 7 and 8 of Rome Statue, which constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity as the bombardment, the report notes, targeted defenseless civilians. Therefore, Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which protect the right to life.
The report says that the bombardments, which were carried out by the Russian air force, constitute a violation to the customary international humanitarian law and have resulted in collateral damages that involved casualties, injuries, or significant damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators that compel to believe that the damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military advantage.
According to the report, the attacks carried out by Russian forces constitute a violation to the de-escalation agreement through bombing areas held by factions from the armed opposition. This strips the path and agreements of Geneva of any meaning and strengthens al Nussra Front at the expense of those factions.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps after Resolution 2139 was adopted, and no pledges to cease the indiscriminate bombardments have been made. The report also stresses that the Syrian case should be referred to the International Criminal Court and all those who were implicated should be held accountable, and sanctions should be expanded to include the pillars of the Syrian and Iranian regimes who have been directly involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.
The report also calls for supporting the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016. And establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.
In addition, the report calls on the OHCHR to submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other UN Organs on this massacre in particular and the ones preceding it seeing that they are glaring marks in a string of daily, sporadic massacres of smaller scale.
The report calls for implementing the ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ norm especially after all political initiatives, through the Arab League agreement and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities and Astana agreements that followed, have been to no avail. Therefore, after all of this, action should be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ norm, which was established by the UN General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.
The report stresses that the UN special envoy to Syria should condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres who were primarily responsible for dooming de-escalation agreements, effectively shattering and ending the entire political process and hold the Syrian-Russian alliance fully responsible for this. And disclose to the Syrian people Russia’s intentions to completely take control of the Syrian lands by force and its explicit desire to rehabilitate the present Syrian regime, which means formulating a political solution that suits its interests.
Lastly, the report calls on the Russian regime to cease all patterns of war crimes in Syria, reconstruct what has been destroyed by Russia’s machine of war, and compensate the victims materially and morally, and issue a public apology. The report adds that the Russian regime should cease supporting war crimes and crimes against humanity which the Syrian regime has been perpetrating for eight years, deeming the Russian regime directly implicated in those crimes.