The report, issued by the New York-based international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), contains estimates from local activists that over 4,300 civilians were killed as the result of government air strikes in the eight-month period between late July 2012 and March 22, 2013.
The report states that a substantial body of evidence indicates that Syrian forces have launched deliberate, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the civilian population.
HRW documented 59 unlawful attacks during the eight-month period. It interviewed more than 140 witnesses, as well as four defected officers from the Syrian Air Force. The latter confirmed to the human rights group that the Syrian Air Force does not have the technological capacity to identify or target military objectives in a precise or effective manner. Instead, according to the defectors, aerial attacks are consciously used to induce a state of fear and panic within the civilian population.
The report, which focuses on the activities of the Syrian Air Force, highlights five main areas of concern: deliberate attacks on bakeries, attacks on hospitals, the use of cluster bombs, the use of incendiary weapons, and other unlawful air strikes.
According to the 80-page document, military aircraft and artillery units have deliberately attacked bakeries and civilians waiting in line for bread on 78 separate occasions, eight of which were documented first hand by HRW.
There have also been repeated attacks on hospitals, particularly in the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia, where much of the war has taken place. Dar Al-Shifa, a hospital in Aleppo, was attacked eight times in four months. As a result, it could no longer function as a medical facility.
In the report, the NGO calls on the international community to increase pressure on the “principal suppliers” of munitions to the Syrian regime: Iran and Russia.
Despite the Iraqi government’s recent grounding of Iranian flights bound for Syria in order to search them for arms, the organization insisted that neighboring countries—especially Iraq—do more to limit the flow of arms into the war zone.