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Syria

Russian airstrikes kill civilians and damage vital infrastructure

raqqaYesterday, August 11th 2016, Russian airstrikes in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold in Syria, hit civilian residential areas and a water pumping station. The attack left at least 70 civilians dead and injured and disrupted or cut off the water supply to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The exact figure for those killed and injured in the airstrikes is unclear. Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reported 20 civilians dead and 50 wounded, whilst the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 24, along with six others whose affiliations are not confirmed.

Russia, on the other hand, said the airstrikes had destroyed an arms depot, a training camp and a chemical weapons factory. They also reported killing ‘a large numbers of militants’.

Since Russia announced its intervention in Syria in September 2015, the levels of harm from air-launched weaponry has significantly increased. Russia has frequently been implicated in the deliberate targeting of civilians and humanitarian infrastructure, such as hospitals.

In the first half of 2016, AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor had already recorded 6,408 deaths and injuries in Syria. Of these 5,001 were civilians, with state actors responsible for at least 38% of the civilian deaths and injuries in this period. Russia has perpetrated at least 18 of the air-launched attacks recorded in this period, responsible for at least 331 civilian casualties. However, state attacks by Syria or Russia have been responsible for up to 67 recorded attacks, killing or injuring 1,730 civilians.

The violence in Syria was greatly reduced through March after the ceasefire; the total deaths and injuries in that month were at least 50% less than those recorded in either any other month so far this year.

Over the last five years, AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor has found Syria to be consistently one of the worst affected states from explosive violence around the world. A total of 36,224 deaths and injuries from explosive violence were recorded there between 2011-2015 – of these 86% (31,290) were civilians. Indeed, the only country worse affected from explosive violence in the last five years was Iraq.

From 2011 to 2015, 16,657 civilian deaths and injuries in Syria have been reported in English language media from explosive violence perpetrated by state actors, predominantly Syria and Russia. Of these state perpetrated attacks, 466 were air-launched – attacks which alone were responsible for some 10,065 civilian deaths and injuries.

AOAV records casualties (i.e. people killed and injured) from explosive violence around the world as reported in English-language news sources. The data reflected here cannot capture the full scale of civilian suffering in Syria, but is indicative of the patterns of harm that exist when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.

AOAV strongly condemns the use of violence against civilians and calls upon all groups to reject the deliberate targeting of civilians. The use of weapons with wide-area impacts should also remain of concern; due to the severe impact these have on civilians. All actors must urgently address the civilian harm in Syria.

The situation in Syria requires an urgent response to prevent further suffering of Syrian civilians, who have for too long borne the impact of the violence in their country.