Syria war: Hospitals being targeted, aid workers say

Syria war: Hospitals being targeted, aid workers say

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Syria and Russia deny targeting hospitals or other civilian areas

Aid workers in Syria say that at least 10 hospitals in rebel-held areas have suffered direct air or artillery attacks over the past 10 days.

An adviser to a coalition of medical charities told the BBC that the attacks had been the most intense for a year.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said more than 100 children in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus needed medical evacuation.

The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, have consistently denied targeting civilian areas.

Among facilities hit by recent air strikes was a maternity hospital in Maarrat al-Numan, in Idlib province, which aid workers said was hit three times in four days.

Five people died in the worst attack, on Wednesday, according to the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), and the hospital was temporarily put out of service.

Mr De Bretton-Gordon, who advises the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), said other attacks in recent days had targeted hospitals predominantly in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital.

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“This has been at a level, again, we haven’t seen,” he said.

“There are over 125 children needing live-saving surgery, including three very young children [whose injuries are] too graphic almost to describe,” he added.

“A six-month old who has lost an eye who will die if he doesn’t receive surgery and an eight-year old girl who weighs only 8kg (17lb) who is dying of malnutrition.”

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Media captionCampaigners are covering their eyes in solidarity with baby Karim

Other attacks on medical facilities documented by UOSSM include:

  • An air strike on a health centre in Harasta, Eastern Ghouta, on 31 December that injured two nurses and damaged the building
  • A paramedic was killed when an artillery shell struck a hospital in Harasta on 30 December
  • A barrel bomb attack in Maarrat al-Numan, Idlib, on 28 December killed a woman and injured three children at a primary health care centre

UOSSM chairman Dr Ghanem Tayara condemned the attacks.

“This fresh wave of attacks on medical facilities is sickening and unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

“These attacks force facilities to shut down, terrorise staff and result in undue hardship for patients already suffering.”

He added: “Since the beginning of the crisis, there have been hundreds of well-documented attacks on medical facilities in Syria. It’s shameful that there has never been a formal prosecution for these war crimes and it severely undermines the UN’s credibility.”

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At least 25 civilians were reported killed in air strikes in Eastern Ghouta last week

Last week, at least 25 civilians were reported killed in air strikes on two towns in Eastern Ghouta.

About 400,000 people in the area have been under siege by Russian-backed Syrian government forces since 2013.

The Syrian government recently allowed Red Cross teams to evacuate 29 critically-ill patients from the Eastern Ghouta as part of a deal that saw rebels release the same number of prisoners.

However, hundreds more patients are in urgent need of evacuation from the enclave.

The Eastern Ghouta is designated a “de-escalation zone” by Russia and Iran, the government’s other main ally, along with Turkey, which backs the rebels.

But hostilities intensified in mid-November when the Syrian military stepped up air and artillery attacks on the enclave in response to a rebel offensive.

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