Middle East

Report finds 544 civilians killed in Russian-led assault on Syrian bastion

Women and children exit the back of a truck as they arrive at a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area Source: AAP

Rights groups say 544 people have been killed since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria began two months ago.

At least 544 civilians have been killed and more than 2000 people injured since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria began two months ago, rights groups say.

Russian jets joined the Syrian army on April 26 in the biggest offensive against parts of rebel-held Idlib province and adjoining northern Hama provinces in the biggest escalation in the war between Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his enemies since last northern summer.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which monitors casualties and briefs various UN agencies, said the 544 civilians killed in the hundreds of attacks carried out by Russian jets and the Syrian army include 130 children. Another 2117 people have been injured.

"The Russian military and its Syrian ally are deliberately targeting civilians with a record number of medical facilities bombed," Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, told Reuters.

Two children look at a camp for forcibly displaced people in Khirbet al-Joz, Latakia, Syria, 31 May 2018.
Two children look at a camp for forcibly displaced people in Khirbet al-Joz, Latakia, Syria
AAP

Russia and its Syrian army ally deny their jets hit indiscriminately civilian areas with cluster munitions and incendiary weapons, which residents in opposition areas say are meant to paralyse every-day life.

Moscow says its forces and the Syrian army are fending off terror attacks by al Qaeda militants whom they say hit populated, government-held areas, and it accuses rebels of wrecking a ceasefire deal agreed last year between Turkey and Russia.

Last month US-based Human Rights Watch said the Russian-Syrian joint military operation had used cluster munitions and incendiary weapons in the attacks along with large air-dropped explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated civilian areas, based on reports by first responders and witnesses.

Residents and rescuers say the two-month-old campaign has left dozens of villages and towns in ruins. According to the United Nations, at least 300,000 people have been forced to leave their homes for the safety of areas closer to the border with Turkey.

On Friday, 15 people, including children, were killed in the village of Mhambil in western Idlib province after Syrian army helicopters dropped barrel bombs on a civilian quarter, the civil defence group and witnesses said.

The heads of 11 major global humanitarian organisations warned at the end of last month that Idlib stood at the brink of disaster, with three million civilian lives at risk, including one million children.

"Too many have died already" and "even wars have laws" they declared, in the face of multiple attacks by government forces and their allies on hospitals,

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch