It has been a horrific week for civilians in Syria.
A ceasefire, though unevenly implemented, had significantly reduced unlawful attacks and civilian deaths in Syria since the beginning of the year. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said that January had the lowest monthly death toll in four years.
But after this week, March will likely be a different story.
On March 11, the Syrian state news service, SANA, said that two explosions in the capital, Damascus, killed at least 40 people and injured 120, many of them Iraqi nationals. On March 15, SANA reported that suicide bombers attacked the Palace of Justice and a restaurant in Damascus, killing dozens. Syria’s Bar Association said that 16 lawyers were among those killed in the attack.
The week has been just as deadly for civilians in opposition-controlled territory. Syria Civil Defense, a search and rescue group operating in opposition areas, said that an airstrike killed 25 civilians, including 16 children, in Idlib city on March 15.
On March 16, the US-led coalition, carrying out attacks against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and other extremist groups, struck a mosque in al-Jinah, a village in western Aleppo, killing dozens. It is not yet clear how many of the casualties were civilians and how many were fighters.
Under the laws of war, applicable to all parties to the conflict, civilians may not be the target of attack. Attacks that cannot be directed at a specific military target are prohibited. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid loss of civilian life and property.
Armed opposition groups, Syrian government forces and its allies – including Russia – and the US-led coalition should all make sure they adhere to the laws of war to reduce civilian loss of life.