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At least 200 civilians killed by #Russian airstrikes in #Syria

By Tajuddin
Dec 23rd, 2015
A bomb is released from a Russian Su-34 strike fighter in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

A bomb is released from a Russian Su-34 strike fighter in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Beirut , Lebanon ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – At least 200 civilians have been killed by Russian airstrikes in Syria since Russia’s air campaign began there in September, according to a new report by Amnesty International. Amnesty has called the strikes “serious failures to respect international humanitarian law” and said they may amount to war crimes.

The report primarily focuses on 25 Russian strikes from Sept. 30 until Nov. 29 in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces. The entirety of the analysis, according to the report, was conducted “remotely” and used phone interviews with people on the ground, videos and other imagery. Amnesty also utilized open-source publications and consulted with a number of other agencies, including the United Nations.

In one attack in Idlib province, Amnesty claims that Russian warplanes launched three missiles into a crowded marketplace. According to the report, 49 civilians were killed and no military targets were present. Russia’s military, while in possession of precision-guided munitions, has predominantly used unguided weapons or “dumb bombs” — many of them decades old — against targets in Syria.

Some of the strikes, according to Amnesty, involved Russian aircraft indiscriminately bombing populated civilian areas and the use of cluster munitions. Cluster munitions are a type of weapon that disperses hundreds of smaller explosives. Many of these “bomblets” fail to explode, and they often later kill or maim those who stumble upon them. Though banned by many nations, cluster munitions are still manufactured, sold and used by countries such as Russia and the United States.

According to the report, Amnesty reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense and requested information about additional attacks. The group also proposed sitting down with Russian officials to discuss its findings. As of Dec. 18, the Russian ministry had not responded to any of Amnesty’s requests.

On Wednesday, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, called Amnesty’s report a “provocation,” according to a report in Sputnik, a state-run Russian news agency. The chairman, Viktor Ozerov, also said that if the Russians had indeed attacked civilians, the international community would have raised the issue in the U.N. Security Council.

While Russia has remained silent on civilian casualties inflicted by its forces and claimed that it is attacking only “terrorist targets,” the United States has also been mum on the subject. The Pentagon has admitted to only a handful of civilian casualties since its air campaign against the Islamic State began last year. According to the watchdog group Airwars.org, more than 700 civilians have been killed by U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria since Aug. 2014.

Russia’s campaign in Syria shows no signs of letting up. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his armed forces were ready to use increased “military means” in Syria if needed. While Russia has predominately used aircraft to strike targets throughout the war-torn country, some rocket artillery and howitzers are also on the front lines, along with Russian advisers.

Almost 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, and millions of others have been displaced.

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