This was originally posted on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's website.

May 16, 2019

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, submitted the following statement for the Senate record denouncing the brutal campaign being waged by the Assad regime and its supporters in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Hama:

“Today I rise to bring attention to the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers’ latest assault on innocent civilians under a rain of airstrikes and barrel bombs, which has sparked the worst violence in a year and a half in the Idlib and Hama provinces.  The regime and its enablers would yet again have us believe that they are striking “terrorists”. However, facts simply bely that worn-out ruse: their airstrikes have hit 18 hospitals in the past two weeks alone, denying life-saving facilities to more than 100,000 people and destroying at least ten schools, according to NGOs monitoring the situation.  Relief workers on the ground asses that Assad’s forces are responsible for scores of civilian deaths over the past two weeks as well as displacing 150,000 desperate and terrified people.

Assad’s barrel bombs and starvation campaign, along with violence from terrorist organizations, has already sent five million Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.  Despite already fragile economic and political systems, these countries have shown an extraordinary openness in hosting those fleeing.  It is absolutely critical that those refugees be allowed to return in a manner that is safe, voluntary and dignified and that they not be forced to return to situations in Syria where they face conscription, retaliation, detention, torture or murder at the hands of the Assad regime.

In the face of such wanton cruelty and profound suffering, the United States can and must show renewed leadership in Syria but instead, President Trump froze and then terminated stabilization assistance in Syria.  The Trump Administration must restart stabilization funding in Syria.  Furthermore, Congress can show leadership by passing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which would impose new sanctions on the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters.”

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