The rights group said that it documented at least 18 attacks on medical facilities and schools in less than a year.

This picture taken on May 4, 2020 shows an aerial view of members of a displaced Syrian family, from the town of Ariha in Idlib, breaking their Ramadan fast together in the midst of the rubble of their destroyed home. They fled during the previous military assault on the town by Syrian regime forces and their allies.
This picture taken on May 4, 2020 shows an aerial view of members of a displaced Syrian family, from the town of Ariha in Idlib, breaking their Ramadan fast together in the midst of the rubble of their destroyed home. They fled during the previous military assault on the town by Syrian regime forces and their allies. (AAREF WATAD / AFP)

Amnesty International on Monday said it has documented 18 attacks in northwest Syria carried out by regime and Russian forces over the past year that amounted to "war crimes".

Russia-backed regime forces have since late April 2019 waged two deadly military campaigns against Syria's last major opposition bastion of Idlib, which has become home for some three million people.

A ceasefire has largely held since early March, but hundreds of thousands remain displaced and highly dependent on aid even as the opposition-dominated region braces for a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Ground attacks and barrel bombs

The rights group said it documented 18 attacks on medical facilities and schools by either Damascus or its Russian ally between May 5, 2019 and February 25, 2020 in and adjoining the opposition stronghold.

"Evidence shows that, in their entirety, the documented attacks by Syrian and Russian government forces entailed a myriad of serious violations of international humanitarian law," it said.

"These violations amount to war crimes."

Amnesty said they included three ground attacks and two barrel bomb attacks by Syrian regime forces, as well as air strikes by both or either side.

It said the majority occurred in January and February 2020, during the latest onslaught which from December has killed around 500 civilians and displaced almost a million people.

Among the documented attacks were Russian air strikes near a hospital in the town of Ariha on January 29 that flattened at least two residential buildings and killed 11 civilians, it said.

Amnesty also blamed the Syrian regime for an attack on a school using internationally banned cluster munitions that killed three people in Idlib city on February 25.

"The latest offensive continued an abhorrent pattern of widespread and systematic attacks aimed at terrorising the civilian population," Amnesty's regional director Heba Morayef said.

"Russia has continued to provide invaluable military support — including by directly carrying out unlawful air strikes — despite evidence that it is facilitating the Syrian military's commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Syria's war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Source: AFP