Indiscriminate air bombardments and artillery strikes by the Syrian army are killing, maiming and terrorizing the residents of Jabal al-Zawiya and other parts of the Idlib and north Hama regions.
Every day civilians are killed or injured in their homes, in the street, while running for cover or trying to shelter from the bombings. Hundreds have been killed or injured in recent weeks, many of them children, in indiscriminate attacks.
Battlefield weapons and munitions – unguided bombs dropped from the air and imprecise artillery shells and mortars which have a wide impact radius and cannot be aimed at specific targets – are now being used daily against residential areas, significantly increasing the number of civilian casualties. Such indiscriminate attacks violate fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law, as they fail to distinguish between military targets and civilian objects. In the Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and north Hama regions, where Amnesty International carried out its investigations for this report, such attacks account for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in the current phase of the conflict and have forced massive civilian displacement. Unexploded ordnance and remnants of weapons founds at the scene of strikes in the areas visited by Amnesty International include: air-delivered Soviet era unguided fragmentary OFAB-100-120 bombs and other unidentified unguided bombs packed full of pieces of metal rods for maximum impact; 122mm artillery shells; 120mm mortars (in one case an 82 mm mortar); and S5 rockets.
Some towns and villages have been virtually emptied of their residents, many of whom are now camping out in the surrounding countryside or hiding in caves; others are crowding in with relatives in what they hope are safer areas, while others have sought refuge in Turkey – or are currently stuck at the border with Turkey waiting to flee the country.
With the attention of the international media mostly focused on the fighting in Aleppo and the capital, hardly any news reaches the outside world about the horrors of daily life for the residents of Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and north Hama regions.
Amnesty International visited 26 towns and villages between August 31 and September 11 and carried out on-the-ground field investigations into indiscriminate attacks which killed 166 civilians (including 48 children and 20 women) and injured hundreds of others. In recent days Amnesty International has continued to receive information from residents of several villages about ongoing air and artillery attacks, some of which have resulted in yet more civilian casualties.