Opposition activists blame Russian and Syrian fighter jets for conducting an airstrike on a school complex in Syrian province of Idlib that killed at least 28 civilians. The Syrian government and the Russian Foreign Ministry deny the involvement in the attack.
An airstrike on a school complex, located in Hass village in the Syrian province of Idlib, killed at least 28 civilians, including almost two dozen children, opposition activists reported, blaming either Russian or Syrian fighter jets.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and the Western-funded Civil Defense Network, also known as the White Helmets, were the first, who reported about the incident on Wednesday. The strike on the school was also confirmed by the opposition Idlib Media Center, which claimed that a “rocket” struck the premises.
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) 26 октября 2016 г.
“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,” an activist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The tragedy has been condemned by the UN Children’s Rights & Emergency Relief Organization as a potential “war crime.” The organization said that it is likely the “deadliest attack on a school” since the beginning of the war in Syria.
“Twenty-two children and six teachers were reportedly murdered today when their school compound was repeatedly attacked in Idlib, Syria,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. “This is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime,” he added. “When will the world’s revulsion at such barbarity be matched by insistence that this must stop?”
Meanwhile, human rights activists have already stated that the airstrike was carried out either by Syrian or Russian aircraft.
Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that the facts would be considered by Moscow in order to determine whether a possible airstrike destroyed the school, as it was confirmed only by groups with “tainted reputations and questionable sources.” He also added that Russia would wait for the military in order to understand could Russian aircraft to be responsible for the incident.
“It’s horrible, I hope we were not involved. It’s the easiest thing for me to say no, but I’m a responsible person, so I need to see what my Ministry of Defense is going to say,” Churkin said.
Meanwhile, the latest daily bulletin of the Russian centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic doesn’t mention any operations in Idlib province. Syrian state TV-channel reported, citing its own military source, about attacks on positions of terrorists in the region, but did not confirm the fact of hitting a school complex.
At the same time, on Wednesday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Russia was not involved in the airstrike on the school complex.
“Everyone has accused Russia and Syrian forces of the attack, saying directly that it was a bombardment carried out by Russia and Syria. This is a lie. Russia has nothing to do with this dreadful attack,” spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said.
The Ministry said that the data in connection with the Idlib attack is currently being investigated.
Moscow “calls upon all international organizations to join the investigation” into the incident, Zakharova added.