Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Flouting Humanitarian Conflict Conventions

"They are targeting the innocents. People have become too scared to get treatment at hospitals, as they have become the targets."
Sharef Samadi, opposition activist, Idlib, Syria
Civilians and civil defence members look for survivors at a site damaged after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria
Civil defence volunteers look for survivors after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib Credit: REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
"The air strikes are the most intensive on Idlib since the beginning of the truce."
"Even though Idlib is not covered by the ceasefire, it had been relatively calm with only intermittent raids."
Rami Abdel Rahman, spokesman, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, London
Civil defense members try to rescue victims from the wreckage of National Hospital (Ibn Sina) after the Russian airstrikes targeted Idlib, Syria
Civil defense members try to rescue victims from the wreckage of National Hospital after a Russian air strike in Idlib Credit: Mohammad Amen Qurabi/Anadolu Agency/Getty 
Russia, as always, blandly denies it has done any such thing as bomb hospitals. Of course, the question might be why would they bomb hospitals and in so doing target women and children, the ill and the elderly? Other than to defy the very most basic of human rights where in situations of conflict there are certain international standards to be observed, among which is the avoidance of targeting any civilian population.

But if  you intend to defy humanitarian convention, then perhaps the idea is to strike at the most vulnerable, to cause misgiving and dread to ensure that no one rests easy in the assurance that they will be spared when the tyrannical ruler of Syria himself would never seek to spare anyone, targeting atrocities in the past four years directly against the most vulnerable of his own population, to ensure that the message he conveys is well understood.

The death toll in five years of civil conflict now stands at 450,000. Bashar al Assad has far outdistanced his father in committing himself to bloody vengeance against those who defy him. No amount of violence, torture and killing is evidently considered a red line not to be ventured across. The death toll and the millions of refugees his regime has created have not yet peaked. And it seems he has no intention of restraining himself from continuing to demolish any sectarian resistance against his rule.

Moscow has been only too prepared to match Bashar's violence and death toll in service to a shared resolve that the Alawite Baathist regime will prevail. The National and Ibn Sina hospitals in Idlib were targeted and hit. Over 100 people were left with injuries and 60 people were killed in this city in northern Syria. Bodies of children and babies were shown through video footage being drawn from the debris by rescue teams.

The rebel groups controlling Idlib included Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda offshoot not party by decree to the ceasefire in effect since February 27 between Syria and the non-jihadi rebels. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is confident in their figures, that airstrikes carried out by Russia are responsible for having killed over two thousand civilians, 500 women and 300 children.

The day preceding the strikes, the Geneva-based peace talks were seen to be going nowhere, causing Mohammed Alloush, the UN-appointed negotiator to blame the international community for not being "serious" in committing to a solution to the five-year conflict and for failing to act as Syrian government forces continue attacking the opposition and besieging rebel-held areas.

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