BEIRUT – Airstrikes have hit bakeries and hospitals among other civilian targets in Syria, a watchdog reported Thursday, accusing the regime of killing thousands in raids it said amounted to war crimes.
“Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war wilfully — that is intentionally or recklessly — are responsible for war crimes,” Human Rights Watch said in a report titled “Death from the Skies.”
“Syrian government airstrikes that have deliberately or indiscriminately killed civilians appear to be part of systematic and widespread attacks against the civilian population that (HRW) previously found amount to crimes against humanity,” it added.
Basing its findings on investigations in rebel-held areas of three war-torn provinces, the New York-based group documented airstrikes on four bakeries and two hospitals, along with other civilian targets. One hospital in the northern city of Aleppo, the Dar al-Shifa, had suffered at least four attacks alone.
“In village after village, we found a civilian population terrified by their country’s own air force,” said Ole Solvang, an HRW emergencies researcher. “These illegal airstrikes killed and injured many civilians and sowed a path of destruction, fear, and displacement.”
Citing a network of activists, HRW said that “airstrikes have killed more than 4,300 civilians across Syria since July 2012.” The report detailed the use of highly explosive munitions that sometimes flattened several houses in a single attack. One resident of the northern town of Azaz said at least 12 members of his family were killed in a bombing of their homes last Aug. 15.
One of the explosive devices used in attacks on Azaz was a powerful fragmentation bomb “that has a casualty-producing radius of 155 meters,” HRW said. Other types of munitions used by the Syrian Army were cluster bombs, ballistic missiles and incendiary weapons, it said.