Attacks in Syria | Case Study

Attacking Health Care with Chemical Agents

As fighting in Syria’s Hama governorate intensified in late March 2017, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) confirmed barrel bomb attacks on medical facilities in the area, including use of a chemical agent.

On March 25, 2017, the Latamneh Surgical Hospital – a facility built into a cave to protect it from airstrikes – was hit by multiple barrel bombs. While the attack only caused minor structural damage to the facility, multiple sources inside the hospital told PHR that at least one of the bombs, which landed inside the hospital, contained a chemical agent. The hospital’s coordinator told PHR that the attack began around 3 p.m. local time and that chemical exposure led to the death of one of the hospital’s doctors, Dr. Ali Ahmed Darwish.

“Our hospital is underground, and the room that was hit is located off the main entrance,” said a hospital staff member who spoke to PHR and asked to remain anonymous. “Eleven people fainted from the chemical gas. Symptoms included yellowish complexion, red and burning eyes, shortness of breath, and vomiting. A doctor and a technician fainted while performing surgery.”

After viewing video and images of affected individuals at Latamneh, PHR’s medical experts concluded that their apparent symptoms were consistent with exposure to a chemical attack. The suffering inflicted by such attacks can be immense. Exposure to certain types of chemical gas can cause severe pulmonary damage, chemical burns in the respiratory system, burning and blistering on exposed skin, and in some cases death. The use of such weapons is both inhumane and illegal.

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