May 07 – BY Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Russia’s Ministry of Defense lied on Friday about a deadly airstrike on a refugee camp in northwest Syria the previous day.
More than 30 people were killed in the attack on the Kamouna camp, near the town of Sarmada in Idlib Province close to the Turkish border. Videos showed the aftermath of the initial strike by four missiles, with rows of tents destroyed, damaged, and smoking. Clothing, cooking pots, and body parts were scattered on the ground. A truck was filled with wounded people moaning and crying. The White Helmets civil defense organization said warplanes returned for further attacks as rescuers moved through the camp, an account supported by further video.
While it is not certain whether the attacks were carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes, journalists and activists pointed to the Assad regime.
Trying to divert blame for the attack, which came hours after the Syrian military said it would observe a temporary truce in areas such as Aleppo city, Russia’s Ministry of Defense declared that the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra may have shelled the area.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said:
We have attentively studied the information from the air space monitoring data in this area for May 4 and 5, 2016. There were no flights by Russian or any other aircraft.
Judging by the damage shown in photographs and video, the camp may have been shelled either on purpose or by mistake by multiple rocket launchers which are currently being used very actively in this area by terrorists from Al-Nusra.
Konashenkov did not present any of the data, nor did he respond to the evidence and witnesses that established the airstrikes on the camp.
The Defense Ministry has regularly denied Russian or regime aerial attacks on civilian targets, blaming others without evidence. Earlier this year, Moscow dismissed dozens of strikes on medical facilities by its warplanes with the declaration that some of the hospitals did not exist.
On April 28, a day after missiles killed 55 people and destroyed the al-Quds Hospital in east Aleppo, Konashenkov said the assault was by US-led coalition aircraft.
Russia later said that satellite photographs showed there had been no damage to the hospital.
Pro-Assad bloggers, who routinely recycle the Russian denials, quickly spread the latest line. The Moon Over Alabama blog, blared, “An ‘Airstrike’ That Did Not Happen”, asserting that the White Helmets rescuers at the scene are part of an American and British propaganda campaign.
Earlier this month, after five White Helmets personnel were killed in Russian or regime strikes on their building west of Aleppo, pro-Assad activists asserted that the organization is linked to “Al Qa’eda”.
“Probable War Crime”
Breaking its silence over the attack, the Syrian military followed Konashenkov’s lead, insisting, “There is no truth to reports…about the Syrian air force targeting a camp for the displaced in the Idlib countryside.”
However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said evidence suggested a government plane was responsible for the “murderous attacks”:
Given these tent settlements have been in these locations for several weeks, and can be clearly viewed from the air, it is extremely unlikely that these murderous attacks were an accident.
Hussein joined other top UN officials who said the airstrikes were almost certainly a deliberate war crime.
The UN’s head of humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, said on Thursday, “The suspicion will fall initially on the Syrian government and we will want to make sure that they, or whoever it is, are fully held to account for this absolutely abominable act.”
France echoed the remarks, declaring a “revolting and unacceptable act that could amount to a war crime or crime against humanity”.