Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, recently spent two weeks in northern Syria, going to more than two dozen villages and cities. She spoke to VOA from Turkey, on the Syrian border, about the Syrian army’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and north Hama. Amnesty International has just released a report based on Rovera’s observations documenting the toll of attacks on the Syrian population in those towns. Here are some of the highlights of her conversation with VOA’s Avi Arditti and Kate Woodsome. The audio of the full interview is below.
On civilian casualties
I was investigating bombardments and shelling in civilian areas, which over the last month and a half have caused a dramatic increase in the number of civilian casualties. There has been a real game changer, since the end of July, government forces have withdrawn from most of the northern areas and there have been essentially striking from far with air bombardments and artillery mortar shelling using what are battlefield weapons which are of very little use for hitting military targets because they are aerial weapons… They cannot be aimed at specific targets. They have a far too wide impact radius and so they fall rather randomly over people’s homes, streets, over markets and so on.
On hiding during attacks
Sometimes the planes don’t strike immediately. They hover around areas or they sort of go and come back. Sometimes they go and come back because they strike a nearby village so as soon as planes are seen or heard in the sky, people run for cover. Not always successfully because I’ve seen specific cases where people were killed while they were running. I looked at a case where a woman and her two-year-old boy ran out of their home to go two buildings down the road because there was a basement there. Just as they got out of the front door, the plane struck and they were both killed.
On daily life
Daily life is particularly difficult. Food isn’t too much of a problem. Obviously the supply of electricity is erratic. The biggest problem is transport and medical facilities and those two are linked because whatever medical facilities exist in those areas are extremely basic. They are short of everything – of equipment, of medicines and of doctors. Even getting to those very basic facilities proves a challenge simply because there are no ambulances.… The hospitals are also very basic so they are totally overwhelmed.
Listen to more of the interview with Donatella Rovera (9:53):
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