Russian Airstrikes in Syria

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has stated that the death toll since September 30, the start of the Russian airstrikes, to November 20, 2015 had reached 403 civilians; of that, 97 were children. In contrast, the Syrian Network for Human Rights have said that at least 526 civilians have been killed, including 137 children since the beginning of Russian airstrikes.

According to Al Jazeera, Russian airstrikes have hit Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Raqqa, Homs and Deir Az Zor provinces. Russian officials have said that the airstrikes were on request from the Syrian President with the support of the Syrian parliament. The campaign mainly targets the Islamic state, but also attacks rebel groups fighting the Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad. After the Russian Federal Security Services confirmed that terrorism was responsible for the downing of the Russian civilian airplane over the Sinai Peninsula – airstrikes have increased substantially. In early October, Russia restricted the airspace in northwestern Syria to allow its airstrikes to hit forces against Assad in the region. Within the first week of strikes, the Centre for Research on Globalization that the airstrikes had demolished, accounted to about 40% of ISIL’s infrastructure in Syria. The official spokesperson for Russian President, Vladimir Putin, stated that the airstrikes targeted “well-known organizations” which were decided upon with the Assad regime.

Since the beginning of the airstrikes, SNHR has said that over 100,000 people have been forced to flee Aleppo. Physicians for Human Rights have also stated that 10 Russian airstrikes have occurred on Syrian healthcare centers. The head of Physicians for Human Rights, Widney Brown, has stated, “These attacks are inexcusable. Claiming that the fight against terrorists does not give any government the right to tear up the laws of war, which specifically protect health workers and facilities.” On November 16, the Russian government said that the allegations that they were striking healthcare centers and civilians were unfounded. Human Rights Watch has said that the killings of civilians by the airstrikes appear to be war crimes. The Russian government however has disputed that there existed no proof, that the bombings Human Rights Watch is referring to, were in fact Russian airstrikes. Human Rights Watch has also claimed that Russian airstrikes have hit homes, bakeries and in one case killed an entire family.

The US has stated that one of major reasons for the inaccuracy of the Russian airstrikes is because of their use of “dumb bombs” instead of precision guided munitions. The possibility of Russia joining a collaborative effort with the US has also, according to US officials, been drastically reduced due to the imprecision of these airstrikes. Many western governments have criticized Russian airplanes for harming non-ISIS targets, violating Turkish airspace and flying planes close to the American ones. On November 3, 2015, the British government criticized the Russian campaign as delaying a resolution to the conflict by supporting the Assad regime. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris; reporters and analysts have questioned as to whether a coalition between France and Russia will form as they both increase attacks in Syria.