HRW says Russian air strikes in Syria kill civilians

Rights groups claim the Russian military's presence in Syria may have cost war-torn nation dozens of innocent civilian lives

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Residents ride a motorbike in a site damaged by what activists said were air strikes carried out by Russian Air Force, in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al Numan town in Idlib province, Syria on October 24, 2015

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Russian warplanes of hitting civilian targets in western Syria, claiming dozens of innocent lives, adding that the act amounts to be a war crime.

The strikes in question took place in northern Homs governorate on October 15, as Syrian regime ground forces and their allies commenced their offensive against Syrian opposition forces.

Russia started its air strikes in Syria on September 30, with the initial aim of battling the ISIS militancy. However, in time the Russian intentions in Syria appeared to be to only protect Bashar al Assad regime's withering authority.

Residents ride motorbikes near smoke rising from what activists said was an air strike carried out by the Russian Air Force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al Numan town in Idlib province, Syria on October 24, 2015

"Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are serious violations of the laws of war that Russia has an obligation to investigate," the Human Rights Watch statement said.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has also accused Russian warplanes of repeatedly targeting hospitals across the war torn nation.

"The strikes were by Russian forces because the sound of the planes was different from the sound made by Syrian air force planes, and the Russians fly much higher," locals told HRW.

In the village of Ghantou in Homs, the deadliest Russian air strike took place, whereas 46 members of an extended family died, HRW said, citing first responders and local activists.

A nearby bakery in the town of Ter Maaleh was hit by another air strike, reportedly killing 13 civilians and a local commander of the Free Syrian Army, according to witnesses cited by HRW.

The rights group also cited a pro government radio station, saying that the regime forces with the Russian air aid performed raids in both al Ghantou and Ter Maaleh, on the same day witnesses notified the group.

Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow for talks with the Russian president Vladimir Putin on October 22, highlighting Moscow's new role as a central player in the Syrian civil war.

The US condemned the visit, with White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters that "we view the red carpet welcome for Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people, at odds with the stated goal by the Russians for a political transition in Syria."

TRTWorld and agencies