For Immediate Release
As the Syrian and Russian governments planned to halt their bombing of civilians and hospitals in Aleppo this week, attacks on medical facilities in other parts of Syria continued unabated. During that time, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented a series of deadly strikes on hospitals throughout Syria, and PHR today urged that the international community heed these ongoing violations of international law.
“Syrian authorities and their Russian counterparts are playing a sleight of hand trick,” said PHR’s director of programs, Widney Brown. “They claim to be concerned with the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, but their aircraft continue to pound civilian areas and medical facilities elsewhere in the country; Syrian forces and their allies continue to besiege civilian areas; and Syrian authorities continue to withhold food and medical aid from civilians. A humanitarian pause in Aleppo doesn’t blind us to the ongoing commission of war crimes throughout the rest of the country.”
Among other violations of international law, PHR has documented numerous attacks on hospitals outside Aleppo in recent days, including an aerial assault of al-Iman Hospital in Idlib governorate on October 18. PHR’s analysts report that approximately 15 people were wounded in the strike, including five medical staff. The facility itself—which on average treats more than 100 patient each day—suffered significant damage and is currently out of service.
PHR also documented a fatal assault on a hospital in Khan el Shih, a suburb outside the capital, Damascus. Attacks on the facility began on October 5 and continued for hours, as aircraft unleashed munitions on and around the hospital throughout the night. Two hospital staff and two patients were killed, and a dozen others were injured. PHR—which has documented 382 attacks on 269 medical facilities in Syria throughout the conflict—previously recorded three attacks on the same facility.
In addition to attacks on hospitals, PHR continues to receive reports of the denial of humanitarian aid. On October 19, Syrian officials prevented a humanitarian aid convoy from delivering infant formula and some medical supplies to Douma, a town east of Damascus that Syrian forces have besieged since 2012. The following day, the town came under attack and two children were reportedly killed.
“Bombing civilians is a war crime. Targeting hospitals is a war crime. Stripping medical supplies from aid convoys meant for civilians is a war crime. Providing a few hours of calm in one city does not offset the systematic violation of international law, nor does it absolve Syria’s leaders, their Russian counterparts, or any other party to the conflict of their responsibility for perpetrating crimes that have led to one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our time,” said PHR’s Brown. “We cannot lose sight of the calculated commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity across Syria.”
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.