The top United Nations humanitarian official has called for an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into the air strikes that today left dozens of civilians dead and injured in the northern Syrian Governorate of Idleb, which, if found to be deliberate, could amount to a war crime.
“Horrified and sickened” by the news of civilians killed by airstrikes that hit two settlements where displaced people had sought sanctuary, Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “All parties to this appalling conflict should understand that they will one day be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”
He said that initial reports indicate that at least 30 people were killed, and over 80 injured, among them many women and children, while dozens of tents were destroyed or badly damaged.
With modern technology, there is little room for error
“Modern military technology means that there is little room for error,” he said, noting that if this “obscene” attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of a civilian structure, it could amount to a war crime.
Continued fighting and airstrikes mean that vulnerable, frightened children, women and men have nowhere safe to go. Already this year, thousands of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, seeking safety from bombs, shelling and other violence, while millions are still trapped without access to food or medical care, he added.
International humanitarian law clearly sets out the responsibilities of warring parties to protect civilians and to take every possible measure to avoid places where civilians are living and where they are being looked after by humanitarians, he said.
Mr. O'Brien's call for accountability and action to alleviate civilian suffering in war-torn Syria follows his briefing yesterday to the UN Security Council where he expressed similar outrage at air strikes on nearby Aleppo, saying there can be no explanation of excuse […] for waging war on civilians.”
“My question to you […] is again: how many more deaths, how much more suffering can we tolerate before there is a collective push towards an end to this senseless and shameful crisis affecting Syrians, their neighbours and many more people beyond?” he asked the Council.