The Civilian Toll of Russia’s Bombing Campaign

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, less than two-thirds of the casualties of Russian airstrikes have been combatants.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

Exactly three weeks after Russia decided to launch airstrikes in Syria, the country’s campaign has already been criticized for hitting non-ISIS targets, its violations of Turkish airspace, and allowing its planes to fly too close to American ones, as well as a misfiring of cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea that mistakenly landed in Iran.

On Tuesday, some light was shed on the civilian toll of Russia’s bombing campaign. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 370 people have been killed by Russian warplanes since September 30. Of that number, 34 percent have been civilians—127 people, including 36 children and 34 women.

When held against one assessment of the airstrikes by the American-led coalition, which started in September 2014, the Russian numbers come more clearly into view. Back in June, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted that of 3,000 people who had been killed by coalition airstrikes in Syria, 162 were civilians. (At the time, the British-based monitoring organization “re-expressed its strong condemnation” of the United States and its international partners.)

The figures in Tuesday’s report did not include an overnight Russian airstrikes in Syria’s Latakia province that killed a high-ranking commander of a Syrian rebel group that had received American-made weapons. According to some reports, at least 15 civilians were killed in the sustained bombardment.

Also, on Tuesday, CNN reported American military pilots have been warned against reacting to Russian planes over Syrian skies. After some recent close calls, the two countries are working to iron out a technical agreement so that pilots will maintain contact with each other in the air.