Damascus airstrikes kill 11 in country’s northwest

SHUREEN: Regime air strikes on Tuesday killed 11 civilians in opposition-held northwest Syria, the target of months of bombardment by the government and its ally Russia, a war monitor said.
Three children were among 10 civilians killed in the village of Maar Shureen in the south of Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A photographer said the strike hit near a mosque in the centre of the village, destroying vegetable stalls and shops.
Another man was killed in regime air strikes on the northern countryside of nearby Hama province, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.
Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have ramped up strikes on Idlib since late April, killing more than 600 civilians, while 52 others have died from rebel fire, according to the monitor. Government forces have also been locked in battle with militants and allied rebels on the edges of the bastion, which is held by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, including the north of Hama province.
The group in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, home to three million people, although other armed groups and rebel factions are also present. Idlib and its surrounding areas are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey.
A buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented, and the region has seen an uptick in violence.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

MISSUSE OF TERROR LAW
The Syrian government is abusing a 2012 counter-terrorism law to punish the families of suspects by freezing their assets, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, charging it amounted to “collective punishment”.
“By penalising people solely on the basis of their family relationship with an accused person, and not on the basis of their individual criminal responsibility, the finance ministry’s implementation of Decree 63 constitutes collective punishment,” HRW said in a report.
Decree 63, part of Syria’s counter-terrorism law, allows Damascus to freeze the assets of people pending investigation of terrorism-related crimes, even if they have not yet been charged, according to HRW.
The decree is now being widely used to target families of the accused, putting relatives also at risk, it said.
HRW cited cases in which family-owned businesses and properties were seized because a member of the family was placed on a regime list of suspected terrorists.
“Syria is using Decree 63 to authorise abusive and arbitrary practices that rob people of their very livelihoods,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“So long as its laws and practices violate people’s rights, Syria will not be safe or stable.” The counter-terrorism law, enacted in July 2012, grants the government wide jurisdiction to label “almost any act as a terrorist offence”, according to the New York-based rights watchdog. — AFP