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Syrian Coalition condemns Russia’s escalating attacks on FSA and civilians in Syria

BEIRUT | iloubnan.info, with agencies - December 14, 2015, 16h14
Photo credit: Syrian Coalition

The Syrian Coalition strongly condemns Russia’s recent escalation of aerial attacks on the Free Syrian Army’s positions and civilian targets in rebel-held areas, including public markets, bakeries, and residential buildings. It stresses that this aggression fosters extremism and weakens mainstream rebels.

In a letter to the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who currently holds the presidency of the UN Security Council, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian Coalition’s special Representative to the United Nations, referred to the major escalation of indiscriminate aerial bombardment by Russian forces in the opposition-held areas of Northwest Syria. Ghadbian stressed that these attacks represented direct violation of international humanitarian law, including Security Council resolution 2139 of 2014.

Ghadbian said that on Sunday 29 November, more than 40 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded after Russian warplanes targeted a marketplace and a bakery in Ariha, Idlib. Among those killed were innocent women and children. A food bank run by the Humanitarian Relief Agency, which provided services to internationally displaced persons, was also damaged, which disrupted the delivery of bread to more than 45,000 Syrians each day.

Ghadbian added that Sunday’s deadly attacks in Ariha took place within 20 kilometers of the Turkish border, in an area where ISIS has no presence and holds no territory.

“Like most Russian attacks in Syria, the strikes on Ariha were not designed to eliminate ISIS. Instead, they were intended to terrorize the opposition, kill innocent civilians and mete out collective punishment,” he said.

Ghadbian also said that “Russia’s attacks in Syria are indiscriminate and illegitimate, and may amount to war crimes. In the two months since Russian air attacks first started across Syria, more than 400 civilians have been killed, of which 69 were children and 97 women, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.”

“Of the armed forces killed by Russian attacks since 30 September 2015, just a small fraction were ISIS terrorists. Most have been members of Syria’s moderate armed groups, including the Free Syrian Army.”

Ghadbian added that Russia’s intervention in Syria violates international law, including Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 2139, which demands that all parties “immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment.”

“ISIS will not be defeated as long as Syrians are being bombed into oblivion. To effectively tackle ISIS and achieve the political settlement Syrians desperately need, members of the Security Council should work without delay to condemn Russia’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian-occupied areas and make clear that the Russian Federation must quit its indiscriminate use of force, or be held accountable. They also should guarantee the protection of civilians during the Syria peace talks, enforce a no-bombing zone to stop the number one killer of Syrian civilians—indiscriminate aerial bombardment, and listen to Syrians who have been excluded from the Syria peace talks in Vienna.

“Indiscriminate attacks like those witnessed in Ariha are now commonplace. They fail to inspire collective outrage, let alone collective action. They barely make international headlines,” Ghadbian stressed.

Ghadbian concluded by saying that “it is time to end that silence. It is time to protect civilians. The Syrian people need protection. Members of Security Council can provide it. It is high time they did.”

On Monday, the United Nations aid chief condemned attacks on civilians in and near the Syrian capital as "unacceptable," a day after more than 50 were killed.

"Such indiscriminate attacks are unacceptable," Stephen O'Brien said in a press conference concluding a three-day visit to Syria. He didn't make clear if he was referring to attacks led by the Syrian regime, by the Russian army or by the rebellion.

More than 50 civilians were killed on Sunday in air strikes on an opposition stronghold east of Damascus and in rebel fire on the capital.

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