MOSCOW: Moscow said Monday that its bombing campaign in Syria was not targeting civilians after monitors said fresh Russian strikes had killed at least 12 children and three adults, including a teacher.
“Russia does not conduct operations against civilians,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier Monday that a Russian air strike in Aleppo province had killed at least 12 children and three adults and injured another 20 children and teachers.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday it was an “absolute necessity for Syria and Russia to stop their military operations against civilian populations.”
Russia has come under growing criticism from the West as well as human rights groups and Syrian rebels for inflicting civilian casualties in the bombing campaign it launched on September 30 at the request of President Bashar Assad, its long-time ally.
Moscow says it is targeting ISIS and other “terrorists” and has dismissed reports that its raids have killed hundreds of civilians as “absurd.”
Amnesty International in December published a damning report claiming that the Russian raids had killed hundreds of civilians, many in targeted strikes that could constitute war crimes.
The Britain-based Observatory said in December that three months of Russian air strikes in Syria had killed more than 2,300 people, a third of them civilians.
The monitoring group has also accused Russia of killing civilians in strikes on Saturday aimed at a prison complex run by the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
The Russian defense ministry said on Monday that its forces in Syria had struck 1,097 targets in 311 combat sorties since the beginning of the year.