Human Rights Watch on Friday said that the Assad regime forces shelled a school in Idlib province with a large high-explosive projectile in November, killing six children, a teacher, and a student’s mother. It stressed that the attack can amount to a war crime.
The watchdog group said that on November 24, three projectiles hit the area near al-Khansaa elementary school, on the southwestern outskirts of the town of Jarjanaz in Idlib province, causing massive explosions. It noted that online videos posted within hours of the attack show remnants of Russian-made 3F2 “Gagara” rocket-assisted 240mm mortar projectiles.
The attack “appears to have been unlawful and indiscriminate,” said HRW, adding that the weapon used in the attack is designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks.” The attack also wounded as many as 10 children, at least two of whom lost limbs, and three adults, HRW added.
HRW went on to say that the first projectile landed about 550 meters northeast of the school, destroying a four-room house whose owners were not home. About eight minutes later, the second projectile exploded in the street about 30 meters northwest of the school, killing a woman and her son. The third projectile hit an agricultural area to where the schoolchildren fled about 75 meters west of the school, killing six people.
“The lack of a military presence in or near the school, or the surrounding area would make such attacks on civilians indiscriminate and possibly deliberate,” HRW said. A school official affirmed that “there have been no military centers or headquarters in Jarjanaz” since the conflict began in 2011.
“This horrific attack on Jarjanaz is a small glimpse of what an all-out offensive on Idlib without strict measures to protect civilians could mean for thousands of children,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “In light of recent upheavals in the province, it is essential for Russia to pressure Syrian government forces to halt such blatantly unlawful attacks and for all parties to the conflict to make protecting civilians a priority.”
“There is no excuse for attacking civilian structures like schools, yet Syrian forces continue to maim and kill schoolchildren with impunity,” said Van Esveld. “Stopping indiscriminate attacks is an important first step to protect those most vulnerable.”
The province of Idlib and the surrounding areas come under frequent rocket and artillery shelling by the Assad regime forces as well as sporadic aerial bombardment by the Russian air force. The shelling is causing many civilian casualties although the area is covered by the Russian-Turkish agreement calling for a halt to the shelling in the area. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)