Russia’s Air Campaign in Syria: More Civilian Deaths than ISIS?

December 24, 2015
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Russia’s air attacks in the war torn Syria since September show evidence of hundreds of civilians killed and massive destruction of civilian properties, Amnesty International reported.

The rightist group is claiming that the Russian attacks are more directed to civilians, even prepared to show evidence of violations of human rights and international law, in a report released on Wednesday.

In this report, Amnesty International unmasked the casualties resulting from the six attacks, which took place in the Syrian cities of Homs, Idlib and Aleppo between September and November this year. The attacks resulted to deaths of at least 200 civilians but only a dozen Syrian rebel fighters.

Moreover, Amnesty reported that Russia had hidden the damages to a mosque and a field hospital in separate air strikes.

This is very likely, considering that Russian air strikes are being launched at Hmeymim base near Latakia in western Syria. Russia has been launching as many as 80 strikes per day.

Western analysts doubted the accuracy of the targeting. According to Peter Felstead, editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly in an interview with CNN in October, “the air campaign has been effective, but in a typically Russian ‘sledgehammer’ manner.

Likewise, supporting this allegation is a video released by the Russian MoD. The video reveals that there is no evidence of precision targeting such that some ammunition even struck open fields.

Meanwhile, David Cenciotti, from The Aviationist website, said that Russia’s Su-24 and 25 bombers strikes significantly have been using unguided fragmentation bombs. The “Su-24s were also seen dropping RBK 500 cluster bombs.”

Russia’s military campaign in Syria, which started in September, is in support of the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While Moscow pointed out that its operation is to help al-Assad to defeat the ISIS “terrorist targets” , the United States claims otherwise. The U.S. sees the Russian airstrikes as directed to the al-Assad’s opponents.

The U.S. military added that Russia did not use precision weapons. But Moscow denied the allegations. Moscow vowed that their targeting is precise as they showed aerial reconnaissance by drones and satellite images, of which Amnesty did not agree.

Amnesty International’s report is the results of interviews with eyewitnesses and survivors of attacks. The group says it also examined videos and images purportedly showing the aftermath of attacks, supported by the opinion of “weapons experts.”

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International said that “Some Russian airstrikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians. Such attacks may amount to war crimes.”

Amnesty International is very keen on its analysis of the airstrikes, mentioning that its investigation is “independently and impartially investigated.”

From its investigations, Amnesty have confirmed that there were “no military targets or fighters in the immediate vicinity” of the areas targeted. One of the incidents that Amnesty gave as an example is the cruise missile strike launched from a Russian ship sometime in October. The strike hit residential buildings in Darat Izza, Aleppo killing five civilians and destroying a dozen homes.

However, Russia defended its activities by trying to avoid reproach and averting scrutiny of their actions in Syria. Meanwhile, earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin gave a strong warning that Russia will be using “more advanced military force” to combat the terrorists in Syria.

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