In response to the recent escalation in attacks by the Syrian government and its allies in southern Idlib and northern Hama, Rayan Koteiche, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), issued the following statement:
“The dramatic escalation in attacks has created a highly unstable situation that risks the security and wellbeing of millions of civilians. Over the past 10 days, more than 150,000 people have reportedly fled southern Idlib, and at least 12 health care facilities have reportedly been attacked across northwestern Syria.
“PHR’s medical partners in Syria report that coordinates for at least three of the attacked facilities were shared through the UN’s deconfliction mechanism but were targeted anyway. This suggests that the attacks were intentional – not accidental – in nature. Many of the impacted facilities have been forced to go out of service, depriving the vulnerable civilian population of life-saving care.
“One of the larger medical facilities that were attacked over the past week was the Nabad al-Hayat (or ‘Pulse of Life’) Hospital, in Haas, Idlib. The facility serviced the southern Idlib-northern Hama area, providing 5,000 consultations and 500 surgeries a month to a population of approximately 200,000 women, men, and children. On Sunday, May 5, the isolated underground facility was targeted by a massive airstrike and completely destroyed. Syria Relief and Development, the organization supporting the hospital, had evacuated its staff and patients in anticipation of an attack. They did so for good reason: the hospital had been previously targeted and heavily damaged on September 8, 2018, right before the Idlib demilitarization deal came into effect that same month. Nabad al-Hayat was one of the facilities whose coordinates were shared with belligerents through the UN’s deconfliction mechanism, apparently in vain.
“The Syrian government and its allies have systematically targeted health care facilities throughout the conflict as a pillar of their military strategy. The latest escalation appears to be a continuation of this strategy. All parties to the conflict should respect the principles of international humanitarian law and ensure the full protection of civilians. Physicians for Human Rights calls for an immediate cessation of attacks on health care. Each is a war crime. Taken together – and considering their widespread and systematic nature – these attacks may rise to the level of crimes against humanity.”
Physicians for Human Rights maintains a comprehensive map of attacks against health facilities in Syria, available here.
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.