Time reports: In rebel-held Aleppo — once Syria’s largest city, now devastated after more than five years of rebellion — war-weary residents appear to regard the Russian airstrikes as simply one more source of horror. “We see 10 to 15, sometimes 20 airstrikes a day,” says Rami Jarrah, Syrian media activist currently in Aleppo producing a series of video reports documenting the airstrikes. “There’s an atmosphere of despair. The people in general here have gotten used to the war. They don’t believe that a solution is coming.”
In fact, Jarrah says that the Russian airstrikes have picked up some of the slack from the government’s air force, which is in tatters after years of fighting. That means there are now more conventional airstrikes and fewer improvised barrel bombs, which kill indiscriminately when they fall. Regardless, he sees the Russian campaign as a cynical continuation of the regime’s offensive against anti-ISIS rebels. Neither Russia nor Assad “is preventing ISIS from coming to Aleppo, in terms of Russia or Assad,” he says.
Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst on Syria at International Crisis Group, says that part of the reason the Russian campaign has so far failed to deliver a decisive blow against the rebels is that rebel groups have been able to effectively use U.S.-supplied TOW missiles, a potent weapon that brought down a Russian helicopter last week. “The foreign and local dynamics are all meshed together,” he says. “We’ve seen marginal regime gains in some places, and marginal rebel gains in others.”
The Russian military is far from the only force that is killing civilian in Syria. Raids by the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, have killed between 682 and 977 civilians over the length of the entire campaign since August 2014, according to Airwars.
By comparison, the group reports that Russian strikes are killing civilians at a rate roughly 10 times faster than the coalition. Airwars project director Chris Woods says that video footage of airstrikes released by the Russian government indicate that Russian warplanes are using more primitive, unguided munitions. One video shows a Russian long-range bomber dropping “sticks” of unguided bombs from above the clouds.
“That was a very worrying image for us. There is no control of those munitions. Just dropping a stick like that means its going to cause significant damage on the ground over a wide area,” he says. “We’re very used to seeing those images going back to Vietnam or even the Iraq war in the early 1990s, but we don’t tend to see those kind of images anymore, simply because western militaries have changed the way, generally speaking, they fight.”
In addition, Woods said that the number of civilian deaths resulted from where the Russians are choosing to bomb. “There is no doubt whatsoever that Russia is heavily targeting civilian areas.” [Continue reading…]