In one of the most horrific turns of events in war-torn Syria, an airstrike has battered a school in the Hass village of rebel-held Idlib province in north-west Syria, killing 22 children and six teachers. The incident could qualify as the deadliest attack of the 5-year Syrian civil war.
“This is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime,” said UNICEF Director Anthony Lake on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed the strikes on the Syrian regime and Russia, but it is generally difficult to distinguish between Syrian and Russian jets.
Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, has responded to the tragedy saying, “It’s horrible. I hope we were not involved.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has denied involvement: “The Russian Federation has nothing to do with this terrible tragedy, with this attack.”
The right groups have accused Syrian government and their Russian ally for carrying out the indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure.
The Syrian Civil Defense — a volunteer rescue group also known as the White Helmets — said that there were three schools in the complex, and shared photos on social media showing buildings which were reduced to rubble.
The raid hit the Hass village at around 8.30 am when the children were leaving the school to go home.
Many hospitals and schools in Syria have been forced underground to avoid becoming targets of the regime and Russian airstrikes, particularly in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
The latest attacks took to 89, the number of civilians killed in airstrikes on Idlib province in the past seven days, said the Observatory. Syrian and Russian warplanes regularly bomb Idlib, but airstrikes have intensified in recent weeks.
According to Stephen O’Brien, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, “across the country, one in four schools had shut down, more than 52,000 teachers had left their jobs, and over 2 million children remained out of school. ” And another 400,000 are at risk of dropping out as the horrors of this brutal and savage war continue unabated.”