The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that the number of people who were killed in air raids on schools in the province of Idlib, northwest Syria, has increased to 22 children and six teachers. The raids were severely condemned by UNICEF and Britain, and Russia denied its involvement.
In a statement, the Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake described the attack as “a tragedy” and said that “It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime”. He added that this attack “may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago”. The statement also mentioned that the school had previously been targeted on several occasions but did not provide further details.
Reuters quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday as saying that Moscow is not responsible for the air strike on a school in the Syrian province of Idlib that killed 26 civilians, most of whom were students. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a press statement that the Russian army was not involved in the attack. The Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday called on international bodies to conduct an immediate investigation into the killing of more than 20 children in the attack on the school in the village of Hass which is in the Idlib countryside.
The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman told AFP that “dozens were injured” in “six air raids and it is not known whether they were carried out by the Syrians or the Russians. The air raids targeted the school and its surroundings in Hass village in the Idlib countryside. He added that 11 children who were inside the school when it was attacked are amongst the dead.
An opposition activist at the Idlib Media Centre told AFP that the “raids targeted the village at 11.30am on Wednesday and added that “One rocket hit the entrance of the school as students were leaving to go home, after the school administration decided to end classes for the day because of the raids”. The UN has not identified the identity of the aircraft that carried out the raids.
On his part, the UK Special Representative for Syria Gareth Bayley criticised the air strikes carried out by the Syrian regime on a group of schools in the town of Hass, Idlib. In a statement that he sent to Asharq Al-Awsat, Bayley said that initial reports indicate that 35 civilians died in the air raids including 19 students and some teachers and residents. Seventy people were also injured.
The British official also said that “the magnitude of crimes taking place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime through its targeting of schools is beyond imagination and description at a time when it could have saved its planes and ammunition to bomb terrorist centres belonging to ISIS. Targeting children is a terrorist act regardless of whether the attack is made on the ground or from the air”.