Russia's bombing of Syria may amount to a war crime because of the number of civilians its strikes have killed, Amnesty International said on Wednesday, presenting what it said was evidence that the air raids had violated humanitarian law.
"Russian air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and caused massive destruction in residential areas, striking homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities, in...attacks that show evidence of violations of international humanitarian law," Amnesty said in a new report.
Russia started its campaign of air strikes against militants in Syria on Sept. 30, saying it wanted to help the Kremlin's main Middle East ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defeat Islamic State and other militant groups.
It has repeatedly and forcefully denied targeting civilians, saying it takes great care to avoid bombing residential areas.
When asked by Reuters to comment on the Amnesty allegations, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had no immediate comment, while the Russian Foreign Ministry said it first needed to study the report before giving any official reaction.
Amnesty, whose charges echoed those of some Syrian observers, said Russian air strikes had killed at least 200 civilians and around a dozen fighters from September to November of this year.
It said its report, which focused on six attacks in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo, was based on interviews with witnesses and survivors, as well as on video evidence and images showing the aftermath of attacks.
The Russian strikes "appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities," Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
"Such attacks may amount to war crimes," Luther said.
Since Russia formally intervened in the armed conflict in Syria on 30 September, its armed forces have launched thousands of attacks. It has claimed that its armed forces are only striking “terrorist" targets and has not publicly acknowledged that they have caused any civilian deaths and injuries. However, Russian attacks in Syria appear to have actually killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed or damaged hospitals and dozens of homes and other civilian objects. In this briefing, Amnesty International sets out its findings with respect to six attacks.
Source: reuters On photo: The scene following the Russian airstrikes targeting a market and residential area in Ariha town Idlib, northern Syria on Nov. 29, 2015.