Nine apparent ballistic missile attacks on populated areas have killed at least 215 civilians [press release], including 100 children, between February and July Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Monday. Ballistic missiles with large payloads of high-explosives have a wide-area destructive effect, making it impossible to isolate its devastation to single human targets, so HRW has said that military commanders should not order the use of ballistic missiles in areas populated by civilians. The nine attacks HRW investigated caused significant civilian damage with no apparent military advantage, strongly suggesting that the military willfully used methods of warfare incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants in violation of international humanitarian law. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) [advocacy website], a Syrian human rights group, the Syrian government has used at least 131 long range surface-to-surface missiles between December 2012 and early July.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. In July the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria [official website] urged the international community [JURIST report] to bring peace the country. In May UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed concern [JURIST report] regarding reports that described the slaying of entire Syrian families and shelling of communities, as well as the targeted strikes by Syrian armed forces on hospitals and schools. More than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began between Syrian Government forces and opposition groups seeking to oust Assad. Almost two million have fled to neighboring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.