ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Secretary General Antonio Guterres is establishing an inquiry into a series of regime and Russian attacks on UN-supported facilities, including hospitals, in northwestern Syria's Idlib province, his spokesman confirmed Thursday.
Stephane Dujarric said Guterres' investigate board "will ascertain the facts of these incidents and report to the Secretary-General upon the completion of its work."
"The Secretary-General urges all parties concerned to cooperate with the Board once it has been established," he added.
The creation of the UN inquiry follows a letter from 10 members of the Security Council requesting the UN chief launch a probe into Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes on hospitals in Idlib.
The ambassadors of the U.S., U.K., France, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru and Poland urged Guterres to specifically look into attacks on medical facilities and possible abuse of the UN's deconfliction channel.
Russia, China and the council's non-permanent African countries did not join in the appeal.
At the time of the request Human Rights Watch offered strong support for the inquiry, saying the UN provided Russia, the regime and other parties with "coordinates of hospitals in Idlib to ensure their safety."
"Yet time and again, those life-saving facilities have been bombed," Louis Charbonneau, the rights organization’s UN director, said in a statement.
Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian affairs coordinator, earlier this week told the Security Council that the regime's more than three-month offensive has left at least 17 villages in southern Idlib not only decimated but "emptied" as well.
"What you see is a level of destruction consistent with a bombing campaign aimed at a scorched earth policy," he said.
At least 450 civilians have been killed since the regime offensive began in April, according to the UN. That includes over 100 in the past two weeks.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.