Syria Government, Russia Continue To Target Hospitals in Rebel Led Areas

Syria Government, Russia Continue To Target Hospitals in Rebel Led Areas

Syrian activists say two hospitals have been hit amid a wave of airstrikes on opposition-held areas in the northwest province of Idlib, the largest remaining rebel stronghold in Syria, reports Voice of America (VOA).

The bombardments occurred on February 4-5 and have been particularly intense, after rebels shot down a Russian fighter jet on Saturday.

The activist-run Edlib Media Center and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one of the bombed hospitals in the town of Kafranbel was hit on Monday morning.

Also, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society said a hospital it operates was struck three times on Sunday night. The spokesman, Mohamad Katoub, said the hospital is in the town of Maaret al-Numan and is no longer operational, reports VOA.

Hassan Mukhtar, an activist in Idlib province, said to a Guardian reporter: “Maarat al-Numan hospital was bombed by the Russians late at night, it was constant bombardment. This is the same hospital that was also bombed while treating patients for exposure to chemical poisoning in April 2017.

The Russians also destroyed the health center near Saraqeb and the hospital inside Saraqeb.

Hospitals and health centers supported by the organization Doctors without Borders have been damaged in airstrikes on January 21, 29 and February 9.  

The attacks have closed or partially closed services for a population that is already suffering immensely from years of war and displacement.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have deliberately targeted medical facilities, schools, and infrastructure throughout opposition-held regions, reported Foreign Policy (FP) in May 2017.

Since 2011, 454 strikes in Syria have targeted 310 medical facilities, according to a May 2016 report released by the Syria Campaign, an advocacy group that works to protect civilians. Assad’s regime and Russian forces were behind 91 percent of those attacks, according to the report; the Islamic State sometimes kidnaps doctors but has no air force capable of aerial assaults, said FP.

Local doctors said these are not accidental bombings. The attacks are part of a total assault on civilian life in rebel-held areas, reported FP.

"This latest incident demonstrates the brutality with which healthcare is coming under attack in Syria. The fact that this attack occurred on a facility while it was treating incoming patients is particularly egregious and a clear violation of international humanitarian law," said Luis Montiel, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) of Mission in North Syria.