State Dept.: Russian strikes killing civilians

State Department spokesman says Russia's indiscriminate air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Airstrikes in Syria (archive)
Airstrikes in Syria (archive)

The United States expressed concern on Tuesday at what it said was the heavy civilian toll of "indiscriminate" Russian air strikes in Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday and conveyed Washington's worries, AFP reported.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner, citing reports from what he called "credible human rights organizations," said, "Russian air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians, including first responders, (and) hit medical facilities, schools and markets."

Toner added that in October and the first half of November, more than 130,000 Syrians had been forced to flee their homes, in part because of intensified Russian bombing.

Moscow has angrily denied reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Syrian rights groups that its air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government is hitting civilians.

It insists its operation is aimed at "terrorists" and that it takes care to protect civilians, while working with the United States and the United Nations to push for a negotiated end to the war.

But Toner said the United States had expressed its concerns to Moscow about "these indiscriminate attacks ... on infrastructure, on medical facilities, on civilians."

Russia has also been criticized for the identity of the rebel groups it has been targeting in its aerial campaign.

Following the first Russian airstrikes against the Homs and Hama districts in Syria, an unnamed American official said the targets were "moderate" rebel groups fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), despite Russia’s claims it was only targeting ISIS.

France later said that despite Russia's claims that its massive wave of airstrikes was targeting ISIS, evidence on the ground showed that "80 to 90 percent" of Russian strikes in Syria were aimed at propping up Assad.

AFP contributed to this report.