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Syrian ceasefire crumbling: a weekend of violence across Syria

syriaWith over 350 deaths and injuries recorded across Syria since Friday, March 22nd 2016, Syrian civilians are again highly vulnerable to the deadly impacts of explosive violence.

On Friday airstrikes hit rebel-held areas in Aleppo. The attacks, carried out by Syrian government forces, killed at least 25, and wounded a further 40.

The violence continued into the weekend, with dozens of shells exploding across Aleppo.  The shells dropped by government forces in the city on Saturday killed at least 27, whilst those from rebel forces killed six and injured 25. Further airstrikes by Russian forces in Aleppo killed 12 and left at least 22 injured.

Aleppo was not the only area in Syria to be affected by such explosive violence on Saturday. Just east of the Syrian capital, Damascus, the city of Douma was targeted. In strikes upon this city, at least 13 are reported dead. Women and children were reported among the dead, as the shells landed in busy markets and residential areas.

Saturday, also saw the death of 2 civilians in Talbisseh, in central Homs, from government airstrikes.

The violence by non-state actors persisted on Sunday, with Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist militants firing shells into Aleppo. At least 11 were killed and six injured in this explosive violence.

On Sunday too – for the third straight day – both Syrian forces and rebel groups targeted Aleppo. Syrian rebels were responsible for at least 10 civilian deaths, and Syrian government forces for 16.

With this violence over the weekend, the heavy toll on civilians is obvious. The explosive violence between Friday and Sunday alone led to at least 215 deaths and injuries.

This weekend violence puts Syrian civilians at further risk as the ceasefire appears to have virtually collapsed.

Yesterday, Monday April 25th 2016, saw the largest attack since the ceasefire was introduced. The rebel shelling in government-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo left at least 19 dead and as many as 120 injured. This attack brings the total in the last four days to at least 354 deaths and injuries.

There is great concern about the impact that explosive violence has on civilian life in Syria. There has been interest on the civilian impact from the use of barrel bombs particularly. AOAV explored the severe impact of explosive violence on civilians in Syria in the film Syria’s Shockwaves.

AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor recorded 2,666 deaths and injuries in the first three months of 2016. Of these 1,786 were civilians. State actors were responsible for at 33% of the civilian deaths and injuries in this period. The violence in Syria was greatly reduced throughout Syria in March after the ceasefire, the total deaths and injuries in March at least 50% less than those recorded in either January or February.

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

The only country worse affected from explosive violence in the last five years was Iraq.

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