Human Rights

Report: Russia Bombs Office of American NGO in Syria

Russia is facing criticism over reports that it bombed the office of an American NGO in the central Syrian province of Idlib, Foreign Policy wrote on Monday.

The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) said in a statement that its field office has been “completely destroyed” by a Russian airstrike. The organization’s staff, which helps distribute aid and document human rights violations, was not present at the time of the bombing, and no fatalities were reported.

“This attack on a humanitarian field office and surrounding civilian areas is yet another in a string of despicable violations of international law,” said SETF Executive Director Mouaz Moustafa.

An unnamed Pentagon official told Foreign Policy that the report was not “unusual or hard to believe.” The official explained that Russians “have struck there in the past” and added, “They fly in Idlib and they don’t use precision weaponry, so the idea that they could hit a non-military target is legitimate.”

The SETF’s claim comes in the wake of a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that a Russian airstrike hit a school in Aleppo province on Monday, killing at least a dozen children.

Allegations of mounting civilian casualties resulting from attacks by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its allies threaten to undermine United Nations sponsored peace negotiations later this month. After meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, former Syrian prime minister and opposition coordinator Riad Hijab said that while opposition groups are open to holding talks, “We cannot negotiate with the regime when there are foreign forces bombing the Syrian people.” He added that the opposition needed to see a good faith effort from the Assad regime to warrant its participation in the talks.

Reuters reported over the weekend that a senior administration official said that only a third of Russian airstrikes in Syria target ISIS. The official added that the imprecision of the Russian bombing campaign was causing more people to flee, aggravating the refugee crisis in Europe.

According to a report in The Daily Beast on Monday, Russia is arming Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terror group fighting alongside Assad’s forces, with advanced rockets, missiles, and anti-tank weapons.

Activists from SETF, including Moustafa, attended a demonstration against Russian airstrikes outside of Moscow’s embassy in Washington this past October. “If we could ask for one thing, it would be to stop aerial attacks against civilians,” said Moustafa at the time.

[Photo: Bashar Assad Crimes Archive / YouTube ]