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Tuesday 31 May 2016

Russian Airstrikes Continue to Target Medical Facilities

Syrian British Medical Society

Yesterday, at least five healthcare facilities in northern Syria have been targeted by airstrikes, widely believed to have been carried out by Russian Air Force bombers. These include Idleb National Hospital which was rendered dysfunctional, as well as four other hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Governorate of Idleb, which suffered severe degrees of damage, depriving hundreds of thousands of civilians of essential life-saving healthcare. Scores of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and other civilians, have been killed or severely injured as a result of this criminal act.

The start of the Russian airstrikes in Syria marked a significant increase in the targeting of medical facilities. In the month of October 2015 alone, the Russian Air Force has carried out more than 10 strikes(1) on hospitals in Idleb, Aleppo and Hama, resulting in the closure of six, as well as the death of 35 healthcare workers including at least two doctors, and serious injuries in substantial numbers of healthcare staff and patients using the facilities. At least six further strikes against medical facilities could be attributed to Russian Air Forces, bringing the total to a possible 16 in the first month of Russian air strikes(1). There has also been a similar increase in targeting schools and other civilian installations, leading to loss of life and serious injuries amongst teachers, school staff, pupils, and other civilians.

The pattern of these airstrikes is significantly different from those experienced before the start of the Russian air campaign. Whereas the Syrian Government Air Force has resorted to indiscriminate bombing using the so-called “barrel bombs” dropped indiscriminately from helicopters, the more recent airstrikes seem to be specifically targeting medical facilities and schools, and seem to hit their targets with remarkable accuracy and with devastating results. All that coincided with the start of the airstrikes by Russian bombers.

The SBMS is enraged by this continuing outrage, and is deeply concerned about the safety of our staff, our patients, and our facilities on the ground. We demand the immediate cessation of all attacks on medical facilities and other civilian installations.

Furthermore, the SBMS is appalled by the lack of any international outcry for this blatant disregard of all international norms, laws, and conventions. The Government of the Russian Federation and the Russian Air Force have a responsibility, under International Law in general, and under the Geneva Conventions in particular, to take every action possible to ensure the safety of medical teams on the ground, even in areas where combatants are operating. We convey to the Government of the Russian Federation, in the strongest possible terms, our profound concern that such precautions are not in place. The Syrian British Medical Society would urge Her Majesty’s Government, the international community, and the international medical relief organizations, to condemn in the strongest possible terms the deliberate targeting of medical facilities, and to exert pressure on all parties to respect international laws to ensure the safety of medical installations and workforce.

Editor’s Note
The Syrian British Medical Society was established in 2007, as a forum for healthcare professionals of Syrian descent working in the UK. It is a non-profit, non-political organization that aims at promoting the highest professional and ethical standards amongst British-Syrian Healthcare Professionals, and the creation and promotion of academic and professional links with the Healthcare Profession in Syria and related organizations worldwide. Since the start of the uprising in Syria in 2011, the SBMS has redirected most of its activities towards helping the devastated healthcare sector in Syria.

1. http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/russian-forces-carried-out-at-least-10-attacks-on-medical-facilities-in-syria-in-october.html