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PRESS RELEASE: The Syrian Government and its Allies Intentionally Killed and Injured Civilians Fleeing Conflict Zones
Aleppo. Bus carcasses have been piled on the top of each other as protection against the snipers. - ICRC

PRESS RELEASE: The Syrian Government and its Allies Intentionally Killed and Injured Civilians Fleeing Conflict Zones

“The Syrian Government used evacuation routes to deliberately attack civilians fleeing violence. Siege tactics employed by the government forced civilians to use ‘crossing points' between disputed territories to escape active fighting and access essential items like food, fuel, and water where they were easily targeted by snipers or aircraft,” said Zachary Cuyler, lead author of a new investigation published by the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre today.

SJAC’s investigative team identified Syrian intelligence documents that corroborate these findings. “It is clear that the Syrian Government was aware that pro-government snipers were targeting civilians near checkpoints as early as November 2012,” said the primary investigator for this report.

“Killing civilians who attempt to escape active fighting has no goal except to punish Syrians living in opposition areas,” said SJAC’s Executive Director, Mohammad Al-Abdallah, adding that “this practice is only meant to terrorize civilians, and is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law.”

In this investigation, SJAC’s analysts selected verified attacks in Deir Ezzor, Aleppo, and the Damascus countryside where Syrian Government and allied forces targeted civilians fleeing between opposition and government-controlled territory. These attacks are substantiated through open-source video, news reports, satellite imagery, Syrian intelligence archived in SJAC’s custody, and firsthand accounts from survivors and defectors.

The attacks documented in this report represent a portion of the incidents identified by SJAC’s investigations team. They constitute serious human rights violations tantamount to war crimes. They also reflect the widespread and systematic nature of attacks on civilians by Syrian government and allied forces, particularly against communities that were not under Syrian government control, amounting to crimes against humanity.


The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian civil society organization working towards a Syrian state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, where citizens from all components of Syrian society live in peace without fear. Its mission is to promote justice and accountability in Syria by ensuring that human rights violations are comprehensively documented, and that documentation data is securely preserved, catalogued, and analyzed to advance transitional justice and peace-building.

For media inquiries in English, please contact:

Michael Ader

Communications Coordinator

[email protected]

Cell: +1-801-970-3065

For inquiries in Arabic, please contact:

Mohammad Al-Abdallah

Executive Director

[email protected]

Cell Phone: +1-202-704-3215