Rain of Fire
SNHR has published the report “Rain of Fire” which documents no less than 78 attacks that involved the use of incendiary weapons by Russian forces since they intervened in Syria on September 30, 2015.
The 28 page report notes that while incendiary weapons are used for the purpose of concealing land forces’ movements, as the smoke that comes out can disable infrared-based weapon tracing systems, all the incidents included in this report targeted residential or agricultural areas, where no movements towards these areas were made by land forces whether they were Syrian, Iranian, or Russian. Furthermore, the report asserts that incendiary weapons were used to cause human and materials damages, and absolutely not for military benefits. Incendiary weapons are excessively indiscriminate weapons, and are similar to cluster munitions to a large extent. In that, they scatter over large areas, and it is high possibility they might light up again later.
Fadel Abdul Ghani, chairman of SNHR, adds: “This huge number of incidents exhibits a pattern and carelessness, and sometimes deliberateness, by Russian forces to cause damages to the Syrian citizen and Syrian lands. Apparently, this is a methodology and policy by Russian forces rather than an indiscriminate individual use. Political Russian leaderships have to launch investigations to follow-up on these incidents, hold those who are responsible accountable, and compensate those who were affected. Otherwise, they are partners in these widespread violations.”
The report mainly draws upon survivors’ and eyewitnesses’ accounts, where the report highlights ten accounts in addition to pictures of remnants and fires that resulted from these attacks after we verified their authenticity. We have disregarded many incidents for which we couldn’t find any visual evidence or pictures of weapon remnants.
The report documents no less than 78 attacks using incendiary weapons by fixed-wing warplanes believed to be Russian between September 30, 2015 – the date on which Russian airstrikes commenced in Syria- and December 31, 2016. Most of these attacks happened in June, July, and August of 2016, where Aleppo saw the largest number of these attacks with 51 attacks, followed by Idlib with 19 attacks, Homs with six attacks, and lastly Damascus suburbs with two attacks. These attacks resulted in the killing of four children. Additionally, 15 vital civil facilities were damaged.
The report stresses that Russian forces and their political leaderships have violated the international humanitarian law through the use of incendiary weapons against civilian-populated residential neighborhoods. These forces didn’t incorporate any measures to minimize the damages caused to civilians and civil facilities and buildings, and didn’t target n any military trenches or military facilities. These attacks resulted in the killing and injuring of civilians, which constitute war crimes.
The report calls on the Russian government to take every step possible to prevent the reoccurrence of these crimes and punish those who were responsible. Also, an independent committee should be formed to investigate these violations, and other serious violations of the international humanitarian law that were included in past reports. The findings of these investigations must be made public, and those who were responsible must be held judicially accountable.
Moreover, the report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to Investigate the incidents included in this report, and add it to the upcoming report that will address the violations in Aleppo governorate once they are verified in accordance with the Commission’s methodology, and include the rest of the governorates in upcoming reports, and call on the Russian government to uphold its responsibility, compensate the victims, and hold the perpetrators accountable.
The report calls on the international community, and especially the European Union, to impose higher forms of punishments on Russia given the enormity of the crimes and violations that are being perpetrated by Russian forces in Syria. Because the economic and political sanctions are weak, Russia continues to commit more crimes as it is not paying for the crimes and interference in Syria even in the slightest.
The report stresses that the Security Council should adopt a Resolution condemning the excessive use of incendiary weapons in Syria that would address irreversible mechanisms, and serious political and economic sanctions that are to be imposed on anyone who would breach the Resolution.