Russian air strikes on Syrian hospitals, schools 'war crime'

Turkey, France say Russian air strikes that killed dozens of Syrian civilians in attacks on schools, hospitals amount to 'war crime'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Many people gather around what is said to be a hospital damaged by missile attacks in Azaz, Aleppo, Syria, February 15, 2016

Updated Feb 16, 2016

Turkey and France on Monday condemned Russian air strikes that killed civilians in Syria and described them as a war crime.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for the cessation of hostilities as agreed upon in German city of Munich on Feb. 11.

"It is deplorably observed that instead of halting their air strikes, Russians especially have escalated these attacks in Syria and targeted civilians, hospitals, schools," said the statement.

On Sunday, Russian warplanes targeted two schools and one hospital in the Syrian border city of Azaz and another hospital in Idlib which was being managed by Geneva-based medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

The charity's France chapter president on Monday said that seven people were killed when its hospital came under attack, adding that he believed Russia or Bashar al Assad’s regime forces were behind the attack.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said more than 30 people including women and children were killed, adding, "Over 100 others are estimated to have been wounded."

The UN later said the death toll from the attacks were as high as 50.

"These attacks that we strongly condemn are unconscionable and obvious war crime under international law," read the statement.

"With such crimes, Russian Federation is causing the Syrian civil war to get deepened and a dangerous escalation in the region."

"If Russian Federation does not end those attacks immediately - which remove peace and stability - it is inevitable that Russia will face bigger and more serious results," the statement added.

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault said the attacks on the hospitals by the Assad regime and its allies were war crimes.

"I strongly condemn the new deliberate strike against a hospital," Ayrault said in a statement. "The attacks against medical facilities ...constitute war crimes."

Russia has been conducting air strikes in Syria since Sept. 30 in support of the embattled Assad regime, primarily concentrating its operations on territories held by Syrian opposition forces in the Latakia, Aleppo, Idlib and Homs provinces.

Concerns have been raised that the air strikes have been targeting moderate groups backed by the US and its allies in the region, but Russia has insisted its campaign only targets “terrorists,” a term they use to refer to all armed opposition groups.

The war in Syria has so far claimed the lives of over 250,000 people since it began in March 2011 according to UN estimates, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the true death toll exceeds 350,000.

Up to 11 million people have also been displaced both internally and externally by the war.

TRTWorld, AA