More than 170 bakeries bombed during Syria civil war: report

More than 170 bakeries bombed during Syrian civil war: report
3 min read
17 September, 2021
The vast majority of the bakeries were bombed by Syrian regime and Russian forces.
The targeting of bakeries has often been part of the regime's "kneel or starve" strategy, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said [Getty]

A new report reveals that 174 bakeries have been bombed over the course of Syria’s civil war, the vast majority targeted by the Syrian regime and Russian forces.

The report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), which documented the attacks from March 2011 to September 2021, broke down the attacks by date, location, and the parties responsible.

The regime and Russian forces were responsible for 149 of the 174 attacks. Nine were by US forces, four by the Islamic State (IS) group, one at the hands of the opposition, and 11 by other parties.

The attacks killed 801 civilians in total. Bakeries often have large amounts of people queuing outside or buying bread, making them a target for airplanes flying overhead who want to maximize the number of civilians they kill.

Bakeries are critically important in Syria due to the centrality of bread to the Syrian diet, especially during the last two years of Syria’s economic decline. The latest report by the World Food Programme (WFP) shows that 60 percent of Syrians were food insecure.

The regime has yet to repair the majority of the bakeries damaged, further intensifying the food crisis and Syria's bread shortage.

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According to a March Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, “The Syrian government’s failure to fairly and adequately address a bread crisis brought on by a decade of armed conflict is forcing millions of Syrians to go hungry.”

The Syrian government and its ally Russia’s explanation for the regime’s inability to address the bread and food crisis is that Western sanctions on the country prevent it from doing so. The SNHR objected to this, saying the main reason for the bread crisis in the country is both parties' systematic targeting of bakeries.

Noting that attacking civilian infrastructure like bakeries amounts to crimes against humanity, the report said that the regime’s targeting of bakeries in opposition-held areas was part and parcel of its “kneel or starve” strategy. On several occasions, the regime besieged areas to prevent supplies from entering the territory as a way of maintaining pressure on opposition elements and weakening the resolve of their supporters.

In Mudayinat Al-Sham, a neighbourhood in Damascus’s suburbs that was under siege by the regime from August 2012 until October 2016, residents used to “eat herbs grown on the land” to deal with the “severe hunger” which resulted from the regime-held siege.

A source interviewed in the SNHR report said that on one occasion, the regime gave each family who voted for Bashar al-Assad in the 2014 election a bundle of bread - the first bread allowed into the city for months.

Northwest Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces saw the most bakery bombings. Idlib and portions of western Aleppo are still opposition-held. Most of the attacks also took place in 2019, when the regime escalated its bombing campaign in northwest Syria.  

Syria’s decade-long civil war is still ongoing, though the lines of control have largely stayed constant since March 2020. Estimates of the official death toll vary, but hundreds of thousands have been killed and at least half the population has been displaced.