An Amnesty International report says air strikes conducted by Russia in support of Bashar al Assad's regime in Syria have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and damaged hospitals and homes.
According to the human rights group’s report following "remote investigations" of 25 attacks between Sept. 30 and Nov. 29 , Russia - which claims its armed forces are only striking terrorist targets - seriously failed in "respect[ing] international humanitarian law" by causing at least 200 civilian casualties.
The report says there is evidence showing that Russia "has unlawfully used unguided bombs in densely populated areas," such as on residential areas, homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities.
It says there is also "evidence suggesting Russia's use of internationally banned cluster munitions.”
"Some Russian air strikes 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," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. "Such attacks may amount to war crimes."
In one of six cases on which the watchdog group mainly focused, at least 46 civilians - of whom 32 were children and 11 were women - were killed in attacks on October 15 targeting al-Ghantu in the Homs Governorate. Most of the casualties had been sheltering in the basement of a civilian building.
In another incident, three missiles were fired at a busy market in the Idlib locality of Ariha, killing 49 civilians, the report said.
However, Russia denies the killings, claiming the allegations are part of an "information war."
In an October 1 air strike Russia claimed targeted a DAESH command post, the Omar Bin al-Khattab mosque was reportedly destroyed.
Russian Colonel-General Andrey Kartapolov reacted to these claims by stating that such information was a "hoax" and presented a satellite image showing an intact mosque. However, the report says the image actually showed a different mosque to the one destroyed.
UN estimates suggest that at least 250,000 people have been killed since the war in Syria began in March 2011, and that half of the country’s population has been displaced both internally and externally.