Russia Killed More Syrian Civilians than Assad or ISIS in January: Report

Syrian civilians stand in the rubble of a ruined building
People gather near what is said to be a hospital damaged by missile attacks in Azaz, Aleppo, Syria, February 15, in this still image taken from a video on a social media website. Seven Russian missiles struck a hospital in the northern Syrian town of Azaz on Monday, a Turkish security official said, pushing the civilian death toll above 14. Social Media Website/Reuters

Russia killed more civilians than the Syrian army and Islamist group Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in January, according to the independent watchdog the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

A report by the organization, which uses Syrian civil servants in the country’s provinces to verify news about deaths, alleges that throughout last month Russian airstrikes killed 679 civilians, of whom 94 were children and 73 were women.

This is higher than the estimate of how many people the Syrian government has allegedly killed in the same timeframe.

ISIS was the deadliest Islamist group in January, responsible for the deaths of 98 civilians. That is more than the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front, which was responsible for 42 deaths. The total number of civilians killed in January in Syria was 1,382.

According to SNHR, Russia’s death toll comprises largely of hits on contested cities such as Deir ez-Zor, Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa, while the biggest target for the Syrian military’s advances have been the suburbs of Damascus.

SNHR alleges that Assad-loyal forces and the Russian military have “violated the principles of the human rights international laws which protect the rights to life.”

“All evidence and eyewitnesses’ testimonies prove that more than 90 percent of the wide and individual attacks targeted civilians and civil points,” the report alleges.

The Russian Ministry of Defense was not immediately available to respond to the report, but Moscow has previously repeatedly denied that Russian operations are causing any collateral damage to civilians.

Last month, the ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who holds regular press briefings on air strikes, said that the Russian air force “does not even plan air strikes on such targets in the event of a threat of civilian deaths.”

In December, air force Colonel General Viktor Bondarev dismissed Human Rights Watch accusations that his airmen may have dropped cluster bombs on civilians, boasting that his pilots “have not missed even once while they have been [in Syria].”

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