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Finding better ways for Syria

Nov 22,2017 - Last updated at Nov 22,2017

As Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting in Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria, Human Rights Watch says they should make protecting civilians a priority. 

Recent air strikes by the Russian-Syrian military operation in a northern Syria killed scores of civilians, including children, showing the risks civilians living in so-called safe zones are facing.

The tripartite talks are taking place as violence is escalating in Eastern Ghouta, which was hit by more than 181 air strikes in the past few days and where 400,000 civilians under a tightening siege are at risk of starvation and lack of adequate medical care. 

At Sochi, Russia said, the de-escalation zones and a settlement to the Syrian crisis will be discussed.

Just as well, for, if the de-escalation zone declared for Eastern Ghouta is anything to go by, the entire project approved and agreed upon for the rest of the country appears to be in serious jeopardy and fail to serve as a foundation for peace in Syria.

The Syrian government launched a concerted military campaign against this enclave, indiscriminately striking from the air and artillery shelling. The area has been under siege by Damascus, which prevents the entry of food, medicine and other life necessities for its residents.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government attacks killed at least 80 civilians, including 14 children, and wounded hundreds of others over one recent week alone.

More deaths can be expected unless Damascus stops the attacks.

According to the terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch, many of the de-escalation agreements failed to deliver the promise to protect residents in those areas.

Recently, an aircraft of the Russian-Syrian alliance carried out three air strikes on Atarib, a town in Aleppo governorate some 25 kilometres from the Turkish border and part of the de-escalation zones. The attack, which hit a commercial street with a market and a police station, killed 75 civilians and injured several more. 

It is hoped that the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran meeting in Sochi will come up with a plan of action — more efficient than the de-escalation zones — that targets terrorists and spares besieged civilians. 

It is hoped they will produce a blueprint for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the only guarantee that innocent people do not die and that life returns to some normalcy in this battered country.

Until then, Damascus should stop its indiscriminate attacks on civilians, particularly in areas designated as having a de-escalation regime.

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