Russian attack helicopters continued airstrikes on Tuesday targeting the positions held by the so-called Islamic State located in Syria’s Homs province that falls between the ancient city of Palmyra and al-Qaryatain. With the Syrian war entering it’s sixth year now, there’s no clear end in sight.
In a video filmed on Tuesday, Russian helicopters are allegedly shown pounding Islamic State targets with missiles in Homs province.
Although President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly pulled out of Syria last month after Russian warjets had flown 9,000 sorties over five and a half months, Putin said Russian “objectives” had been “generally accomplished”, but his exact gameplan remains unclear.
The IS has suffered major defeats in Syria over the past months amid intense airstrikes by Russian warplanes. But even then, the costs of collateral damage keep on rising.
Here’s a look at a few numbers:
DEAD AND WOUNDED
Due to an inability to monitor on the ground, there are no reliably precise statistics on the number of people killed in Syria’s war. According to the UN, over 250,000 are dead, and well over a million wounded. But officials acknowledge that that figure has not been updated in months. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the war, puts the death toll at more than 270,000, while a recent report by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, an independent thinktank, said the conflict has caused 470,000 deaths, either directly or indirectly.
Almost half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million has been displaced. The UN refugee agency says there are 6.5 million displaced within Syria, and 4.8 million outside. Much of the remaining population is in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The refugees have mostly fled to neighbouring countries — Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq — and have flooded Europe, where most arrive after a treacherous sea journey from Turkey.
Historic Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and former commercial centre, has been devastated. Its ancient souks and the famed Umayyad Mosque complex have been trashed, its 11th century minaret toppled. The city of Homs, Syria’s third largest, lies in ruins, entire blocks reduced to rubble or uninhabitable husks of housing. Rebel-held towns around Damascus such as Jobar, Douma and Harasta are now a vista of collapsed buildings and rubble. A preliminary World Bank-led assessment in six cities — Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib, and Latakia — released in January showed an estimated damage of $ 3.6 billion to $ 4.5 billion as of end 2014.
Almost all of Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage sites have been either damaged or destroyed, including Aleppo in the north, the ancient town of Bosra in the south, the Crac des Chevaliers — one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world — and the Palmyra archaeological site. Some have been damaged by fighting and shelling, others intentionally blown up or pillaged. The Islamic State, which took control of Palmyra last year, destroyed many of its Roman-era relics, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph. Numerous archaeological sites in Syria are being systematically targeted for excavation by criminals and armed groups. These include the Apamea archaeological site in Hama, the Tell Merdikh archaeological site in the Idlib region, and the Dura-Europos and Mari sites in Deir el-Zour.
(with inputs from AP)