For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has confirmed that Russian forces were responsible for at least 10 attacks on medical facilities in October, resulting in the death of at least one medical staffer.
PHR has documented six additional attacks on medical facilities in October – five airstrikes on medical facilities by either Russian or Syrian government forces and a car bomb attack on a clinic by unknown forces – bringing the total to 16 and making it the worst month on record for attacks on medical facilities since the conflict started in March 2011.
PHR has confirmed the following attacks by Russian warplanes:
- On October 2, a Russian warplane launched an airstrike on a field hospital in Latamneh, in northern Hama governorate. The facility’s equipment, supplies, ambulance, and generator were damaged, and two nurses and a hospital guard were injured. The hospital was put out of service following the attack. The Syrian government previously attacked this facility with barrel bombs in June.
- Also on October 2, a Russian warplane launched an airstrike on an ambulance depot and emergency response center in Benin, in rural Idlib. Part of the facility and at least two ambulances were seriously damaged, and the depot was temporarily put out of service. Reports indicate that two planes flew over the facility and launched strikes that fell around the depot before circling back and launching another strike, which landed inside the depot. The Syrian government previously attacked this facility with barrel bombs in April.
- On October 3, a Russian warplane launched an airstrike that damaged al-Burnas Hospital in northern Latakia, near the Turkish border. The hospital suffered minor material damage but had to be evacuated. The hospital is the only one in the region with an obstetrics/gynecology unit and was forced to limit its operations to select emergency services.
- On October 11, Russian warplanes launched airstrikes on a medical point in Tamana’a in southern Idlib governorate. The airstrike damaged the facility and put it out of service. The Syrian government previously attacked this medical point with barrel bombs in July.
- On October 13, Russian warplanes launched airstrikes near Baghdad Hospital in Hraytan, in the suburbs of Aleppo city. Missiles landed directly outside the hospital’s entrance and on nearby buildings, damaging the hospital and a transport vehicle and injuring three civilians. Syrian government forces previously attacked this hospital on September 1.
- Shortly after midnight on October 16, Russian warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on al-Hader Hospital in the southern Aleppo countryside, damaging the hospital’s structure, furniture, and supplies and cutting the electricity. One civilian was killed, three members of the medical staff were injured, and the hospital’s patients, including several newborns in incubators, were evacuated as the hospital was put out of service.
- Approximately 30 minutes after the attack on al-Hader Hospital, Russian warplanes bombarded nearby al-‘Ais Hospital, injuring one civilian and causing material damage. The hospital was put out of service, leaving the region without a functioning medical facility following the earlier closure of al-Hader Hospital.
- At around 1 p.m. on October 20, warplanes launched two airstrikes on Sarmin, Idlib with missiles, killing medical staff, injuring dozens, and damaging the town’s field hospital. Warplanes launched the first strike on a building near the hospital, followed by a second strike approximately ten minutes later, after first responders had gathered. The second strike hit approximately 20 meters from the hospital and damaged the facility. A physiotherapist, hospital guard, and member of the civil defense (“white helmets”) were all killed in the second “double tap” strike.
- On October 30, Russian aircraft launched a series of airstrikes on the National Company for Pharmaceutical Industry, a pharmaceutical factory in Khan al-Asal, outside of Aleppo city. The facility suffered extensive damage and was put out of service.
- On October 31, Russian aircraft launched a series of strikes on al-‘Ais Medical Point in the southern Aleppo countryside, which was established after al-‘Ais field hospital was put out of service because of Russian airstrikes on October 16. The medical point suffered extensive damage and was put out of service.
PHR documented five additional attacks on medical facilities in October by either Russian or Syrian government airstrikes, along with a car bomb attack by unknown forces on a clinic in al-Tal, Rif Dimashq. PHR also documented the deaths of seven medical personnel in October – four of them by Syrian government forces, one by Russian forces, and two by either Russian or Syrian government forces.
You can read about PHR’s methodology here.
PHR has been able to confirm the Russian airstrikes specifically by examining and confirming at least three of the following points:
- Reports from the Russian Ministry of Defense: these public reports, when available, confirmed that Russian forces were conducting airstrikes where medical facilities were attacked on the dates in question.
- Open source reports: a review of numerous open source reports confirmed that Russia was the only airforce conducting airstrikes in the town where each attack occurred on the day of, two days before, and two days after the attack.
- Testimony from doctors and sources on the ground: sources stated they are able to visually identify newer Russian aircraft because they are different colors and shapes than the older warplanes used by the Syrian government.
- Patterns of attack: Russian forces can fly two to three warplanes side by side as a team effort, which the Syrian government does not have the capability of doing. There is also often no warning of Russian strikes, as the newer Russian warplanes are much quieter than the Syrian government’s older planes.
- Types of weapons used: Sources consistently reported that the weapons were much stronger and louder than the munitions the Syrian government has used and have caused more damage.
PHR’s interactive map tracking attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Syria can be found here.
A code for embedding the map online is available upon request.
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.