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Saturday 20 June 2015

And still no No-Fly Zone

Since the beginning of this year, more than 55,000 refugees have arrived in Greece by sea from Turkey. According to the UNHCR, over 60% of them are from Syria. Why are these tens of thousands of Syrians coming to Greece, a country in a state of economic crisis?

From an Observer article by Tracy McVeigh earlier this month:
With 2,000 migrants drowning in the Mediterranean this year, there is an exhausted euphoria among the newly-arrived in Kos. Coming off the police launch on Friday was a Syrian teacher, Mohamad al-Shamali. He showed photographs on his phone of the street he had left behind in Aleppo, all rubble and bloodstains and bombed-out cars. He is sad that he might not see his homeland again. “But life is more important,” he says.

Syrians aren’t only fleeing Assad’s bombs and prisons, some are also fleeing ISIS. But more than ever, air attacks are the major killer in Syria.

Last year over 40% of civilian killings confirmed by the Violations Documentation Center in Syria were caused by Assad’s air attacks. Amongst women and children the proportion was even higher: over half the number of women and children violently killed in 2014 were victims of Assad’s air force.

Recently the proportion of civilians killed by air attacks appears to have escalated even further. VDC Syria’s report for May 2015 shows 66% of civilians confirmed killed by Assad forces were victims of air attacks.

The VDC Syria statistics are far from complete, and comparison of their overall totals with earlier UN reports suggest they may only be managing to record half of all violent deaths, if even that. However other sources also indicate a rising civilian toll from air attacks.

Physicians for Human Rights report that May 2015 was the worst month yet for attacks on hospitals in the Syrian Conflict:
Eight of the 15 attacks on medical facilities in May were with barrel bombs, and the remaining seven were with rockets and missiles. All 15 attacks were conducted via aircraft, which has become the Syrian government’s preferred mode of attack for targeting locations in opposition-controlled territory, far from frontlines. Of the Syrian government’s 44 attacks on medical facilities between January and May of this year, 42 attacks, or 95 percent, were via aircraft.

Médecins Sans Frontières‎ report that Assad’s air attacks have continued unrelentingly this month, with at least ten hospitals bombed so far in June.

The UK has the capacity to stop these attacks. Grounding Assad’s air force would save lives. It would ease the pressure of refugee flows. It would allow medical workers in Syria some level of safety.

Lack of action makes us complicit in Assad’s slaughter: the greatest crime so far of this century. It is long past time to end our complicity.

Protect civilians. Ground Assad’s air force.

This document sets out how the UK can act. Please share it with your MP, and with anyone else who may be able to help.