Health workers, hospitals victims of Syria conflict

Burnt vehicles are pictured in front of the damaged the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo.
Burnt vehicles are pictured in front of the damaged the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - Numerous doctors and nurses and medical facilities have been hit or targeted by missiles or air strikes since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.

The conflict, prompted by the regime's bloody repression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations, has become a multi-sided civil war, with many players, from both Syria and abroad.

More than 270,000 people have been killed in the conflict and more than half of the population displaced.

On Friday (April 29), in the northern battleground city of Aleppo, regime aircraft damaged a clinic, just days after a strike on another hospital killed a doctor, a dentist, three nurses and 22 civilians, sparking an international outcry.

 

The US non-governmental organisation Physicians for Human Rights said it had registered a total of 358 attacks on medical establishments in Syria between March 2011 and the end of February this year.

During that same period, 726 health workers have been killed.

 

The watchdog said 90 per cent of the attacks were blamed on regime forces and their allies and that most of the attacks on health facilities were deliberate in order to destroy them.

Barrel bombs and cluster bombs were used on at least 70 occasions to attack the hospitals, it said.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that 94 air strikes and rocket attacks hit 63 hospitals and clinics that it supports last year alone.

Twelve of them were completely destroyed while 81 members of the medical staff were killed or wounded.

"After five years of war in Syria the health infrastructure has been decimated," it said.

On Feb 15, 2016 a bombing raid targeted a hospital supported by MSF in the northwestern rebel province of Idlib, killing 25.

"This attack can only have been deliberate. It was probably carried out by the coalition led by the Syrian government," Joanne Liu, the international president of MSF said at the time.

"Hospitals are not safe places, neither for the injured nor for the health workers...We can see no commitment on the part of the parties to the conflict to ensure adequate security conditions," according to MSF.

In early 2014, the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which controls vast zones in Syria abducted 13 MSF personnel and held five of them captive for nearly five months.