Syrian Government forces unlawfully killed more than a hundred civilians in a series of aerial attacks on the city of al-Raqqa in November 2014, a new report by Amnesty International has claimed.
Entitled ‘Al-Raqqa under attack: Syrian air force strikes against civilians’, the report alleges that a series of airstrikes between 11 and 29 November killed up to 115 civilians, including 14 children.
The strikes, which targeted a mosque, a busy market, and other buildings not being used for military purposes, are believed to have violated international humanitarian law, and some of them may also amount to war crimes.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme director Philip Luther said: "Syrian Government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes.
"They have carried out repeated attacks on civilian areas without clearly identifying military targets, a blatant violation of the requirement to distinguish between civilians and military targets."
The report dismisses the Syrian authorities’ claims that the attacks were meant to target members of and bases held by the Islamic State (IS), by providing evidence that no military targets such as IS bases or checkpoints could be identified in the vicinity of the areas attacked in most cases.
According to Amnesty, some strikes appear to have been direct attacks on civilian objects and civilians, and should be investigated as war crimes.
Luther said: "Both IS and government forces have been committing appalling crimes against civilians across Syria. Unless the Security Council enforces its resolution their suffering is only likely to multiply.
"A referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court would send a message to all warring parties that those who order or commit war crimes will be brought to justice, and an arms embargo would help stem the flow of weapons being used to commit these crimes."
The city of al-Raqqa currently serves as IS’s centre of operations, and has been frequently bombarded by the Syrian Government, the US and Arab countries since 2014.
Image: A mosque damaged by airstrikes in al-Raqqa, Syria in November 2014. Photo: courtesy of © REUTERS / Nour Fourat.