Summary Statement on the recent offensive on Idlib and Hama

The Violations Documentation Center in Syria has recently received many distress calls from the medical points and relief teams in the cities and towns of the governorates of Idlib and Hama, following the military campaign launched by the Syrian government forces supported by the Russian warplanes on the two governorates.

Since Saturday 9 February 2019 and until the date of release of this statement, the regime forces have launched large-scale indiscriminate attacks on the neighborhoods, towns and cities of Idlib and Hama. Until Wednesday May 15th, 2019, the VDC team has documented 425 civilian casualties. This number is not final and continues to rise as dead bodies and survivors are still found under the rubbles.

This statement follows the collapse of the cease-fire, as the Syrian and Russian forces along with pro-government groups launched what is to be considered a violent military campaign against civilians in the cities and towns of the governorates of Idlib and Hama.

Last March, the VDC issued a summary report on the recent military offensive on Idlib and Hama based on the work and findings of its field team in Syria.

The cities and towns in Hama and Idlib witnessed an unprecedented movement and displacement of population resulting from the violent military campaign. More than 472 thousand people had fled the area by May 2019.

The attacks also partially or completely wrecked hundreds of houses. Indisputable systematic attacks on residential neighborhoods were recorded, killing hundreds of civilians and causing heavy losses to their property, in particular houses, shops and business facilities.

So far, the VDC team has documented 1269 airstrikes by Russian warplanes targeting residential buildings and vital facilities:

18 hospitals, medical points and clinics

7 schools and education facilities

10 mosques and places of worship

2 civil defence centers

 

Targeting medical facilities and medical personnel is a clear violation of the provisions international humanitarian law and the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, ratified by Syria. As such, it amounts to a war crime.

The VDC confirms that Russian and Syrian government forces are severely violating the principles of international humanitarian law by directly and deliberately targeting civilians, as well as aid workers, medical personnel, civilian infrastructures and civilian objects in Idlib and Hama and their suburbs.

The VDC condemns the punishment of civilians and its instrumentalisation as a method of warfare, noting that targeting civilians and civilian objects is a war crime under international humanitarian law. The center calls for a complete neutralisation and protection of civilians, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions of 1949, its additional protocols of 1977, and the customary rules of international humanitarian law.

The VDC calls upon the international community and the United Nations bodies to shoulder their responsibilities in protecting the civilians by all available means, and pressure the Syrian and Russian governments to completely neutralize the civilian . population in the conflict

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