In Brief

Syrian forces ‘targeting hospitals and using cluster bombs’

Amnesty International accuses Assad of ‘crimes against humanity’ as bombing intensifies

Syrian regime forces have targeted hospitals and used banned cluster bombs, according to reports.

Bombing in the province of Idlib has intensified, killing scores of civilians. Pro-regime outlets have reported that troops have taken the key town of Kafra Naboudeh on the southeast of the Idlib pocket.

Although the Idlib pocket is supposed to be subject to a ceasefire agreed by Russia and Iran, the regime’s backers, as well as Turkey, the military has long maintained that the area would eventually have to be reconquered. 

The World Health Organisation has confirmed 20 attacks on 18 different medical facilities in Idlib in the past three weeks alone. Al Jazeera says this leaves civilians “caught in the crossfire”.

United Nation officials have shared the GPS co-ordinates of 235 schools, hospitals and other civilian sites in Idlib province with Russia, Turkey and the US, in the hope this would protect them from being attacked. 

“We share these coordinates so there is no doubt that a hospital is a hospital,” said Panos Moumtzis, a UN regional humanitarian co-ordinator.

In response to reports that hospitals are being targeted, Amnesty's Lynn Maalouf said: “This is part of a well-established pattern targeting medical facilities to systematically attack the civilian population and it constitutes crimes against humanity.”

Opposition groups have provided the media with silver fuses which it says are remnants of the mechanism for delivering cluster bombs, which are scores of bomblets deposited over a wide area. There are also reports of barrel bombs being dropped. 

Sky News points out that “deliberately attacking medical facilities and civilian areas is deemed a war crime under international law” and that cluster bombs are “banned by most countries under international law and are viewed as a war crime by many countries”.

Meanwhile, France's foreign minister said yesterday there is evidence that chemicals had been used in attacks by Syrian government forces on rebels in northwest Syria, but they still needed to be verified.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that over the past five weeks shelling and airstrikes, including barrel bombs, has killed 305 civilians including 69 children. 

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