154 Civilians Killed, including 15 children
SNHR has released a report entitled, “The Brutal Attacks on Suwayda governorate between the Terrorism of the Syrian Regime and ISIS” which documented the killing of no less than 154 civilians, including 15 children and 19 women (adult female) in the attacks on Suwayda governorate on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.
The 10-page report draws upon a number of accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ families, in addition to analyzing videos and photos posted online. The report notes that the investigations into the Suwayda attacks took more time in light of the fact that SNHR doesn’t have an extensive communication base in Suwayda governorate, as the governorate hasn’t seen many violations compared to other governorates. The report notes that this is the bare minimum, which the report documents, in light of extraordinary difficulties and many residents’ hesitation to cooperate in fear of retaliatory acts by ISIS or the Syrian regime against them if they do so.
The report sheds light on some indications of coordination and harmony between the Syrian regime and ISIS prior to the Suwayda attacks, including transporting ISIS fighters who were in al Yarmouk Camp to al Badiya al Sharqiya, Suwayda governorate, which was followed by Syrian regime forces evacuating their bases in eastern suburbs of Suwayda, and then retreating from the most integral observation point in al Badiya – the Dayyatha point and disarming the popular committees, while some villages refused to surrender their weapons. According to the report, the attacks only targeted the villages that surrendered their weapons.
The report contains two accounts that talked about power and land communication being cut off in parallel with the raids, which made the task of sneaking into the villages easier for the attacking forces, while it made for a more difficult situation for the residents who couldn’t call for help or instantly recognize the criminals.
The report stresses that these attacks, which give away a scenario in which the Syrian regime used ISIS to attack the residents in Suwayda governorate, aim primarily to ask for the Syrian regime’s protection, and therefore it gradually taking back control of the area, and apply pressure on the Druze sectarian group to give up tens of thousands of youths to fight with Syrian regime forces, as they are suffering from a shortage of manpower to secure the stable area in Daraa governorates after Russian, Syrian, and Iranian forces managed to seize control back in late-July 2018.
According to the report, Suwayda city saw a series of attacks on Wednesday, July 25, 2018, between 05:00 and 07:00, where a number of gunmen wearing explosive belts carried out suicidal bombings in a number of neighborhoods in Suwayda city – at the vegetable market, by al Mashnaqa Circle, by al Najma Cricle, and in al Maslakh neighborhood. These attacks resulted in the killing of 24 civilians, including two women, while no less than 50 others were wounded.
The report adds that gunmen raided eight villages in the eastern and northeastern suburbs of the governorate – al Shbeki, al Mtouna, al Swaimra, al Shreihi, Gheidat Hamayel, Douma, Tarba, and Rami, in parallel of those attacks where they raided houses and executed people by shooting or slaughtering them using knives.
The report records the killing of 130 civilians, including 15 children and 17 women (adult female). In addition, the report records that around 29 civilians, including 18 children and 10 women, were abducted from al Shbeki village.
ISIS hasn’t claimed responsibility for the raids of the villages and the subsequent executions and abductions of residents who were taken as hostages as they have done with the bombings in the city. However, the investigations and the accounts included in the report suggest that ISIS fighters were indeed involved in perpetrating those crimes in coordination with some Bedu of Suwayda. In addition, the abductors’ requests are in line of releasing ISIS affiliates who are detained by the Syrian regime which raises the possibility of ISIS being responsible for the abductions.
The report records that three hostages and one fetus died. Of those, two hostages were executed (Mohannad Abu Ammar and Tharwat Abu Ammar), in addition to one woman who died due to poor health care, while the fetus died as a result of a premature birth.
The report stresses that the use of explosive arms to target populated residential areas reflect a criminal mentality and a deliberate intention to kill as many victims as possible. This explicitly violates the international human rights law, and constitutes a blatant violation of Articles 27, 31, and 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The report adds that the international humanitarian law prohibits taking hostages (Article 34 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, Article 75-2-c of Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, and Article 4-2-c of Additional Protocol (II) to the Geneva Conventions). Taking hostages constitutes a war crime. In addition, the report notes that the Syrian regime’s practices have paved the way for ISIS to carry out their attacks. As such, the Syrian regime bears a significant responsibility in those incidents.
The report calls on the international community to work on establishing a path of political transition founded on removing and holding the criminals accountable, as, the report stresses, there is no putting an end to extremist groups as long as there are regimes who are manipulating, harnessing, and using these groups to terrorize the Syrian people.
The report also calls for aiding the victims of the terrorist attacks that were carried out by ISIS and provide educational and material support for the local communities to shield them from the risk of being intellectually conditioned and then actually recruited.
The report calls on the Security Council to take all possible measures to uphold the Resolutions adopted by the Security Council – most notably Resolution 2139, and find a way to stop the huge violations that are being perpetrated by the Syrian authorities and their militias who have been coordinating with ISIS in many areas. The report calls for referring the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and all those who were involved should be held accountable. In addition, the report emphasizes that the militias that are fighting with the Syrian government and have perpetrated wide massacres, such as Iranian militias, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, other Shiite factions, National Defense Army, and Shabihas, should be added to the list of terrorist groups, and target and fight these groups same as extremist Islamic groups.
Moreover, the report calls on the OHCHR to submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other UN organs about this massacre and the massacres that preceded seeing that it is a glaring point in a string of daily massacres of lesser scope. Also, the OHCHR should work on upholding the recommendations of this report.
Lastly, the report calls on the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to launch investigations into the killing incidents that occurred in Suwayda governorate and other areas, stressing that SNHR is willing to cooperate.