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A New and Dangerous Form of Attacks on Northwest Syria: Suicide Drones Threaten the Lives of Civilians

Six suicide drone attacks targeting Al-Ghab Plain on Thursday, February 22.

The Syrian regime, Russia, and Iranian militias have significantly and alarmingly escalated their use of suicide drones in a new and unprecedented approach, targeting civilians in northwest Syria, posing a direct threat to their lives, eroding their livelihoods, and restricting their access to agricultural lands. These attacks exacerbate the destruction of food security infrastructure in the region, making it even more challenging for residents to meet their daily needs, especially amidst a declining humanitarian response. The lack of any decisive steps from the international community to halt these attacks further compounds the hardships faced by the Syrian people as they enter the 14th year of the ongoing war.

Our teams documented six attacks with suicide drones originating from areas controlled by the Syrian regime, targeting the Al-Ghab Plain in the northwestern countryside of Hama on Thursday, February 22.

  1. The initial attack occurred around 2:00 PM yesterday, aiming at a civilian riding a motorcycle with his children as they were en route to their agricultural land in the village of Al-Ziyara, resulting in their injury.
  2. The second attack, also around 2:00 PM, targeted the main road leading to the village of Al-Qarqur with a suicide drone. No injuries were reported among civilians.
  3. The third attack occurred around 3:00 PM and targeted a bridge known as the Train Track Bridge west of the village of Al-Farikah.
  4. Around 3:30 PM, the fourth attack targeted a rest stop in the village of Al-Qarqur used by fishermen fishing at the Al-Qarqur Dam.
  5. A few minutes later, a fifth attack occurred, targeting another rest stop for fishermen in the village of Al-Qarqur, close to the initially targeted rest stop.
  6. The sixth attack took place around 5:00 PM and targeted a civilian car parked in the village of Qastoun in Al-Ghab Plain. There were no reported injuries, but the attack caused significant damage to the car.

On Thursday, February 15, two civilians were injured in an attack by regime forces employing a suicide drone. The incident took place between the villages of Al-Daqmaq and Al-Mansoura in the Al-Ghab Plain northwest of Hama.

In another attack on Tuesday, February 6, a civilian sustained injuries when a regime forces' suicide drone targeted a civilian vehicle (a water tanker) on the road connecting the villages of Al-Qarqour and Frikah in the southwestern countryside of Idlib.

These drone attacks have primarily targeted the Al-Ghab area, renowned as one of Syria's most fertile agricultural regions, particularly for cultivating grains, including the essential wheat that serves as the main food source for the Syrian population. The region is also home to the Al-Qarqour Dam, where civilians engage in fishing. These attacks pose a significant threat to numerous families, endangering their livelihoods, whether tied to agriculture, fishing, or herding.

Furthermore, the attacks extended to Afs and Maarat al-Nu'man in the eastern countryside of Idlib, as well as Kafr Amma in the western countryside of Aleppo. These areas are located along frontlines or in close proximity to them.

From the beginning of the current year, 2024, until February 22, our teams have documented 13 attacks involving suicide drones. Responding to these attacks targeting civilian environments, our teams have recorded injuries to 7 civilians, including two children.

Civilians in northwest Syria are facing a grave threat due to the use of suicide drones launched by Syrian regime forces, Russia, and Iranian militias. This dangerous escalation in tactics not only jeopardizes the lives of innocent residents but also undermines their means of survival and livelihoods. The deliberate targeting of civilians by these suicide drones instigates tension and fear, disrupting the daily lives of people in northwest Syria. The intentional nature of these attacks raises concerns about the ongoing threat, instilling terror in the local population.

The repercussions of these attacks go beyond immediate loss of life and property damage. Targeting civilian environments, villages, towns, farmers, agricultural areas, and the Al-Qarqour Dam region poses a threat to the livelihoods and income of numerous families. This leads to a worsening of food security, impacting the ability of the population to cultivate crops. Moreover, these attacks impede access to essential services, exacerbating challenges for communities already ravaged by 13 years of war.

From the start of the current year, 2024, until February 18, our teams have responded to 138 attacks by regime forces and their affiliated militias in northwest Syria. Among these attacks were three involving missiles carrying incendiary submunitions that targeted four markets, four schools, three mosques, and civilian homes. These attacks resulted in the deaths of 10 individuals, including two children and a woman, and left over 60 others injured, including 17 children and five women.

As Syrians approach the fourteenth year of war, the international community continues to fall short in halting blatant violations of international humanitarian law. The absence of measures to hold the perpetrators accountable has far-reaching consequences, eroding trust in the principles of international humanitarian law and justice.