While the UN decides whether to classify an air strike on a makeshift camp for displaced people in northern Syria as a war crime, disaster relief agency ShelterBox condemns the targeting of families on the run from war.
Thursday’s air strike on a makeshift camp for displaced families near the Syria/Turkey border, in which at least 28 people died – many of them women and children – has been condemned as a possible war crime by the UN.
The bombing of the Kamounia camp in the northern Idlib province came only a day after the extension of a ‘partial cessation of hostilities’ truce was confirmed. Reports say the strike on the rebel-held area was by Syrian or Russian planes, but this has not been confirmed.
Stephen O’Brien, head of humanitarian affairs at the UN, has called for an inquiry into the attack. He told the BBC, ‘Be in no doubt that all these terrible acts, wherever they happen and whoever perpetrates them, will not be forgotten and the people who perpetrate them will be held to account.’
The Kamounia camp is in the volatile region of Idlib, only 2.5 miles from the city of Sarmada and within six miles of the Turkish border. ShelterBox has been active in Syria and its neighbouring countries for over four years. Operations Co-ordinator Sam Hewett was recently in Turkey overseeing ShelterBox aid operations with in-country partners ReliefAid and Hand in Hand for Syria.
Sam says, ‘Sarmada is very close to the Turkish border and a large number of people have moved to this area because it was meant to be less at risk of this type of attack. These are large camps, and obviously not military in nature.’
‘Our partners have undertaken distributions of ShelterBox aid as part of the Sarmada camp cluster. I do not know if any of the households that we have directly supported have been affected by this air strike, and it would be very difficult to find out.’
ShelterBox Interim Chief Executive Chris Warham adds, ‘It is the most inhuman act to use women and children fleeing war as military targets. This shocking event can only fuel the desperation of thousands more families to head for the border, and the perceived safety of refugee status. Those in Kamouna, as in other Syrian camps, are classified as internally displaced persons rather than refugees, so have less protection under international law.’