Between December 2019 and March 2020, Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, subjected civilians and civilian objects such as residential homes, schools and hospitals in Idlib, western Aleppo and north-western Hama governorates to a terrifying barrage of attacks launched from the air and ground. These attacks killed and injured scores of civilians, destroyed and damaged vital civilian infrastructure and led to the displacement of close to 1 million people. More than 80% of those displaced are women and children; many of the remaining men are older persons, persons with disabilities and members of other at-risk groups.
These people – many of whom had been displaced repeatedly – were forced to flee to villages and towns, mostly close to the border with Turkey. They currently live in dire conditions, suffering shortages in food, clean water and medical aid.
On 10 July, UN Security Council Resolution 2504, which authorizes cross-border aid to people in north-west Syria, expires. The Security Council must renew cross-border aid to sustain the UN’s ability to continue delivering basic aid across the border. We must all take action to ensure that civilians in north-western Syria continue to receive timely and sustained humanitarian aid through the Turkish border.
A [cluster munition] bomblet exploded close to my feet… The pain was unbearable… Two students were walking in front of me. One died instantly and the other one, miraculously, survived.
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"NOWHERE IS SAFE FOR US"
UNLAWFUL ATTACKS AND MASS DISPLACEMENT IN NORTH-WEST SYRIA
Based on interviews, satellite imagery, aircraft observation logs and intercepted aircraft radio communication, Amnesty International has documented unlawful attacks on hospitals and schools in Idlib and western Aleppo governorates by Syrian and Russian government forces, as well as the resulting humanitarian crisis. The research also shows that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the largest coalition of armed groups in the north-west, interfered in humanitarian organizations’ work. Civilians are at further risk if a crucial UN mechanism to deliver humanitarian relief from across the border with Turkey is not renewed. The UN Security Council must ensure this mechanism remains intact.
WAR CRIMES AND OTHER VIOLATIONS
Syrian and Russian deliberate attacks on civilian neighborhoods, schools and hospitals
Dire humanitarian conditions in refugee camps on Turkish borders
Syrian government forces use air-dropped barrel bombs and ground-fired cluster munitions against schools
Hospitals and Schools Under Attack
Between December 2019 and February 2020, Syrian or Russian attacks destroyed 10 medical facilities in Idlib and Aleppo, killing 9 medical staff, according to Idlib Health Directorate. Dozens of other medical facilities had to close down. Amnesty International’s new report shows that Syrian and Russian government forces deliberately hit hospitals listed on the UN “do not target” list. The report documents six attacks on medical facilities in north-west Syria carried out between January and February 2020. Of those, two were air strike attacks by Russian government forces, and another two were air strike attacks by Syrian or Russian government forces. In addition, Syrian government forces carried out one attack by ground fire, and another by dropping unguided barrel bombs, a weapon used exclusively by Syrian government forces.
In January and February 2020, air and ground attacks hit 28 schools in north-western Syria, according to Hurras Network (Syrian Child Protection Network). On 25 February alone, 10 schools were targeted, killing 9 civilians.
Our investigation shows that Syrian and Russian government forces attacked schools which were being used for educational purposes or as shelters for internally displaced people in north-west Syria, using air strikes and shelling.
DISPLACEMENT AND HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
The attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure pushed close to 1 million people out of their homes. Families converged on displacement camps that had already been packed to the brim; schools, abandoned sports facilities and other public buildings were turned into temporary shelters. Many families also resorted to staying in unfinished buildings. Many families were unable to find new sources of income and struggled to live off the limited food and cash assistance they were receiving from humanitarian organizations.
There’s no place to shower. People clean themselves inside their tents. Some families visit relatives who have homes and shower there.
Access to health care has been affected by the impact of the attacks on health facilities, as well as limited medical resources. Numerous camp schools had to close due to lack of funding, leaving children with no education, taking on risky jobs to support their families.
Life in a tent is very hard. It’s very difficult, especially with children… When I sleep, I put my infant between my legs to keep him warm.
From Idlib to the world: We are still here
Blog post by Mohammad Yusra, a Syrian humanitarian worker and one of three million civilians currently in Idlib province, trapped between pro-government forces and the closed border to Turkey.,