Attack on school labelled war crime

Outrage after 22 Syrian children die in ‘barbaric’ strikes

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown called yesterday for a war crimes investigation of the deadly strike on a school in Syria that killed 22 children.

Brown, the United Nations envoy for global education, said: “This is the worst assault on school children among 98 separate attacks on Syrian schools in the last two years.

“I am calling on the Security Council to immediately agree that the International Criminal Court prosecutor conduct an investigation into what I believe is a war crime,” he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes – either Russia or Syrian – carried out six strikes on Wednesday in a village in rebel-held Idlib province, including on a school complex.

Unicef director Anthony Lake said the school compound in the village of Hasshad been repeatedly attacked, leaving dead 22 children and six teachers.

“When will the world’s revulsion at such barbarity be matched by insistence that this must stop?” he said.

The White Helmets civil defence group released pictures of four rescue workers clambering over a mound of rubble in search of survivors.

“One rocket hit the entrance of the school as pupils were leaving to go home, after the school administration decided to end classes for the day because of the raids,” an activist with the opposition Idlib Media Centre said.

Other activists circulated a photograph on social media of a child’s arm, seared off above the elbow, still clutching the strap of a dusty black ruck sack.

Shaky video footage depicted rescue workers sprinting towards the site of the raids and pulling a frail, elderly man out of a collapsed building.

The authenticity of the pictures and footage could not be independently verified.

Russia said it had nothing to do with the air strikes and demanded an immediate investigation.

“The Russian Federation has nothing to do with this terrible tragedy, with this attack,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Brown said now that Russia was calling for a probe, it should support a move by the Security Council to ask the ICC to investigate the attack as a war crime.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said either Russia or the Syrian government was responsible.

The West has accused the Russians of bombing the war-torn country’s civilian infrastructure to bolster its long- time ally President Bashar al-Assad.

 

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