A Violent October in Northwest Syria: 66 Dead and More Than 270 Injured in an Escalation of Attacks by the Regime and Russia
In a significant escalation of attacks and intense bombardment by the regime forces and Russia this October, 66 individuals, including 23 children and 13 women were killed, and more than 270 individuals were injured, among them 79 children, 47 women, and 3 White Helmets volunteers.
This month of October constitutes one of the most violent and deadly months witnessed in years in northwest Syria as regime forces and Russia perpetrated massacres and attacks, employing internationally banned weapons against civilians and public facilities. As a result, education came to a standstill and civilians fled their homes en masse, leading to a significant deterioration in humanitarian conditions.
As the international community remains preoccupied by the highly tense regional situation, the regime and Russia have seized upon the current circumstances to continue in their escalation and deadly attacks on civilians.
The Victims of Bombing and Massacres
The escalation of attacks and intense bombardment by the regime forces and Russia in October resulted in the death of 66 individuals, including 23 children and 13 women. More than 270 individuals were injured, among them 79 children, 47 women, and 3 White Helmets volunteers.
Regime forces carried out three massacres, predominantly affecting children and women.
- The first occurred on Sunday, October 22, when regime forces targeted a tent near a residential home in the village of Al-Qarqour in the northwestern countryside of Hama. This incident claimed the lives of 5 children, including three siblings and a cousin, along with another child who went missing (she was playing with the children who were killed and has yet to be found).
- The second massacre occurred on Tuesday, October 24, as Russian warplanes attacked the Ahl Sarqib displacement camp in the village of Al-Hamameh in the western countryside of Idlib. This attack resulted in the death of 5 civilians, including two sisters, one of whom was pregnant, their grandmother, and two infants. Additionally, 5 other civilians were injured, including 2 children, an infant, and two elderly men.
- The third massacre occurred after midnight on Thursday, October 5th when regime forces launched a missile attack on a displaced family's home located north of the town of Kafr Nuran in the western countryside of Aleppo. The attack claimed the lives of 5 civilians from the same family—a disabled elderly woman and her four children, including two women. Additionally, one woman was injured in the attack.
Number of Attacks and Types of Weapons Used
During the month of October, White Helmets responded to a total of 287 attacks carried out by the regime forces and Russia. These attacks included 160 artillery strikes and over 70 missile attacks, involving the use of hundreds of artillery shells and missiles. Among these attacks were 30 aerial attacks conducted by Russian warplanes, 9 attacks using internationally prohibited incendiary weapons, 1 cluster bomb attack, 2 guided missile strikes, and 1 long-range surface-to-surface missile attack.
The bombardment launched by regime forces and Russia through artillery shells, rocket launchers, and aerial airstrikes, impacted numerous public facilities and civilian residences in over 70 cities and towns in northwestern Syria. The targeted facilities included more than 13 schools, over 7 medical centers, 5 mosques, 5 refugee camps, 5 popular markets, and 4 White Helmets centers, including a Women and Family Health Center, a power station, 3 water stations, and 3 poultry farms.
Waves of Displacement
Since the beginning of the escalation at the start of October, the bombing campaigns have triggered a fresh wave of displacement for tens of thousands of civilians from cities and towns in the eastern and southern countryside of Idlib, as well as the western countryside of Aleppo. Thousands of families have fled from cities like Idlib, Ariha, Jisr al-Shughour, Sarmin, Darat Izza, and villages including Afes, al-Nerab, Termanin, al-Azbamou, and dozens of villages in the Zawiya Mountain area in southern Idlib. Some of these areas were almost completely depopulated due to the intense and sustained bombardment. The estimated population in these areas were approximately 750,000 people. A significant number of them have sought refuge in cities and towns less vulnerable to bombing and posing less danger to their lives, while a larger number have moved to displacement camps, which primarily suffer from significant infrastructural challenges.
The Threat of Winter
The recent escalation campaign launched by the regime forces and Russia in northwest Syria has led to an increase in the number of displaced civilians in the camps due to the significant damage inflicted on residential homes. The regime forces continue to shell areas close to the front lines, especially using incendiary weapons, targeting civilians. Reconnaissance aircraft monitor the area before and after the bombardment, preventing responders and rescue teams from reaching the targeted areas. This makes staying in these highly dangerous areas a perilous choice for civilians.
However, seeking shelter in displacement camps does not provide a safer alternative, especially with the onset of winter and the recurring tragedies witnessed in the camps each year during this season. The insufficiency of humanitarian aid exacerbates the situation, failing to meet even the most basic needs of the displaced population. Essential necessities such as heating are severely lacking, and the geographical terrain of the camp locations further complicates matters. Moreover, the absence of proper drainage channels, especially in camps situated in valleys, leads to significant damage and adds to the challenges faced by the displaced individuals.
With a new wave of displacement towards the camps, Northwest Syria is threatened by an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe as the deadline for the authorization of humanitarian aid entry through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing approaches. This crossing serves as a lifeline for northwest Syria where more than 4 million civilians reside, half of whom have been forcibly displaced from various regions in Syria. Closing the crossing deprives Syrians of their right to food and medicine after the Syrian regime continues to deny them their right to live in safety.
The escalation in the region continues as a part of a deliberate policy aimed at undermining stability, spreading terror among peaceful civilians, and preventing them from living normal lives. These attacks exacerbate the suffering of civilians and constitute clear violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Meanwhile, the international community fails to hold the perpetrators accountable, leaving Syrians exposed to these attacks with no safe zones. Civilians continue to be the greatest victims of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime, Russia, and their supporting militias.