Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 8 November 2019
Civilians continue to pay a very high price in the ongoing hostilities in Syria. Dozens have been killed and injured in the largely separate situations occurring simultaneously in north-eastern and north-western Syria, from a variety of causes including airstrikes and ground based strikes, and increasingly as a result of what appears to be an indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in populated areas, including in local markets.
Since the launch of the Turkish-led military offensive in north-eastern Syria on 9 October, we have verified incidents which – as of 5 November – have resulted in the deaths of a total of at least 92 civilians in northern and north-eastern Syria.
Of these, 49 were victims of airstrikes, ground-based strikes, sniper fire, and executions carried out by opposing Turkish-affiliated armed groups and Kurdish armed groups. In addition, during the same period, we have verified the deaths of a further 31 civilians killed by IEDs, or explosive remnants of war, within the geographic area of Turkey’s military offensive i.e. in Al-Hassakeh, Ar-Raqqa and parts of Aleppo Governorate. And we have recorded the killing of another 12 civilians over the same period as a result of attacks with IEDs or ground-based strikes by Kurdish armed groups, and other unidentified perpetrators, in areas beyond the scope of the Turkish military operation, such as Afrin, Jarablus, al-Bab, and Azaz.
Attacks with improvised explosive devices have noticeably escalated in recent days, mainly in areas under the control of Turkish-affiliated armed groups, which suggests they have most likely been carried out by groups opposing the Turkish military offensive.
We are very concerned about the increasing number of civilians being killed and injured as a result of the use of IEDs in populated areas. The indiscriminate use of such weapons is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. We remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibility to protect civilians and to comply with their obligations under international law.
Another issue of concern in the north-east, relates to people recently displaced during the military offensive who have subsequently been subjected to arbitrary detention, in addition to enforced disappearances, after returning to their homes. This is occurring both in areas controlled by Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups, and in areas controlled by Kurdish armed groups. We remind all parties of the urgent need to facilitate immediate and safe return of displaced civilians who wish to go back to their homes, in accordance with international humanitarian principles. And all people held in custody, regardless of the reason, must be treated humanely and be accounted for.
Separately, while much of the international attention is on north-eastern Syria, in the north-western part of the country, after the lull in hostilities in Idlib Governorate during October, there has been a recent upsurge in airstrikes and ground-based strikes, mostly in parts of southern and western Idlib, including yet more attacks affecting medical facilities. Despite the focus placed on such attacks by the UN and others, and the establishment of a Board of Inquiry by the Secretary-General, health facilities continue to be directly hit or significantly damaged whenever there is a military escalation in Idlib.
Four separate facilities were damaged on 4 and 6 November, taking the total number of health facilities we have recorded since 29 April to 61. The Kafr Nobol hospital, which was hit on 6 November, had already been repeatedly struck and damaged in May and July. On the same day at around 01:30 hours, three civilian medics were injured as a result of several alleged airstrikes by Government affiliated forces. Two of the airstrikes directly hit the hospital of al-Ikhlas in the village of Shanan in Jabal al-Zawya area in southern rural Idlib, putting it out of service.
We repeat yet again that all parties must ensure that hospital and medical services, including medical staff, are respected and protected in all circumstances.
We stress that the figures are not comprehensive, as we are not able to track all casualties. Nor are we able to verify every single incident. Instead, we are attempting primarily to monitor patterns of hostilities with a particular emphasis on emblematic incidents that we are able to verify in order to identify such patterns.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / firstname.lastname@example.org Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / email@example.com or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Tag and share - Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights