For Immediate Release
Airstrikes in Syria damaged two hospitals in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo today, killing and wounding dozens. Working with information from its partners on the ground, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) says both facilities are now out of service. PHR condemns these strikes and reiterates its call for an immediate end to attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Syria.
“There is no respite for doctors and patients and hospital staff who are routinely targeted in Syria,” said PHR’s director of programs Widney Brown. “This latest strike is just one piece of a systematic assault on hospitals during this conflict. These attacks must be called exactly what they are: war crimes.”
According to PHR’s partners in Syria, the aerial attacks damaged al-Bayan trauma facility and al-Hakim pediatric hospital, neighboring facilities in the opposition-held al-Shaar section of Aleppo. Al-Hakim is the only dedicated children’s care center in the area, normally serving 3,800 patients each month. Today’s attacks took both hospitals out of service; according to PHR’s data, that leaves just seven field hospitals to serve 350,000 residents in eastern Aleppo city.
“We expected that it would happen one day, and today is that day,” Dr. Hatem* of al-Hakim children’s hospital told PHR. “After the attack, it was a horrible moment. The nurses were running away to the basement carrying the babies, and many of them started to cry. Some of my staff and I started to move the incubators, and I told people who were waiting in the clinic to leave the hospital.”
Wednesday’s strikes come just a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pledged to retake “every inch” of Syria’s territory captured by opposition forces. In recent weeks, bombing and shelling in Aleppo has intensified as peace talks have stalled and a fragile ceasefire has all but evaporated.
“Assad’s scorched earth plan to reclaim Syria puts nurses, patients, doctors, and medical staff directly in the line of fire,” said PHR’s Brown. “Retaking territory without regard to the often deadly consequences for civilians demonstrates a callous disregard for international norms and laws of warfare.”
On May 3, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution echoing PHR’s calls to stop strikes on health care worldwide, calling on all countries to prevent such attacks and, if unable to prevent them, to investigate them and prosecute the perpetrators.
“It’s unconscionable that world leaders are standing on the sidelines, passive in the face of these deliberate and wholly unlawful attacks,” said PHR’s Brown. “How many more videos of bombed out hospitals and images of dismembered patients do we have to see before the world wakes up to this hellish reality?”
PHR has documented 365 attacks on 259 medical facilities throughout the duration of the Syrian conflict, and has recorded the deaths of 738 health care workers. PHR attributes more than 90 percent of those attacks to the Syrian government and its Russian allies. According to PHR’s data, both hospitals damaged today were hit in a similar strike a year ago.
*A pseudonym used to protect his identity
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.