Despite the looming dangers left by the indirect impact of the previous aerial bombardment on the populated areas, and consequently on the rights of housing, land, and property, this problem has not yet been seriously studied.
A two-storey house on the outskirts of Idlib city collapsed on February 09, killing three children and an adult. The house had previously faced indirect damage from a Russian airstrike, yet residents continued living in it as they had no housing alternatives.
Also in early February, a building collapsed on a farm raising cattle in the town of Mantaf. A month earlier, one person was killed when a ceiling fell on him in the city of Dana, while a child was killed in the town of Al-Jineh west of Aleppo when his family’s house collapsed. November 2020 saw one person killed after the roof of a house in the southern Idlib governorate town Jabal Al-Zawiyeh caved in. Only several days before then, a house collapsed in the Al-Ghab Plain area, killing five people.
All of these buildings had collapsed as a result of indirect damage from previous shelling on populated areas. Some Russian bombs, which are desinged to penetrate concrete fortifications, are among the biggest threats to structural safety due to their damage to the ground soil and floors. Some damages to the foundations of homes may be invisible, while the violent shaking wrought by bombs can also cause visibile damages such as cracks in the walls, supporting column or ceilings.
The scope of these indirect damages depend on the strength and proximity of the bombs. Sometimes these damages accumulate with repeated bombings on the same area, which may cause an affected building to collapse unexpectedly. Oftentimes, damages may not appear until a period of time has passed since the bombing. In all cases, an engineering study is needed in order to estimate the danger of such damages. Such studies may conclude that the walls or a damaged section of the home must be rebuilt or that the home be reconstructed altogether.
The line of contact between opposition and regime forces in the southern part of Idlib governorate is one of the areas most affected by indirect damage to homes. The area is rural, and many of the houses there are old, constructed of stone and mud. Newer homes in this part of Idlib governorate are largely informal and built without permits. Many of these houses were constructed without the supervision of engineers and without observing structural safety rules. They also often lack thermal and moisture insulation, leaving their foundations vulnerable to erosion and rust. These factors increase the risk of severe damage amid bombardment.
Still, many residents remain in their damaged homes despite knowing the risks, as they lack opportunities for alternative housing. Moving to a more structurally sound home means paying high rental costs, while the costs of renovation are prohibitively expensive for many families.