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Russian airstrike hits MSF hospital in Syria

BEIRUT | - February 16, 2016, 09h31
Photo: Syrian coalition

In Syria, a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of Maaret al-Nouman in rural Idlib was hit on Monday by Russian air airstrikes, the Syrian Coalition of Opposition forces stated. "At least seven people were killed and many more wounded in the deliberate attack on the hospital. The hospital was completely destroyed, and the fate of at least eight members of staff is still unknown," the coalition said in a press release condemning the attack. “It is not the first hospital to be targeted by Russian warplanes. Russia has targeted civilian neighborhoods, medical centers, schools and houses of worship. This crime will not be the last as long as the international community keeps silent and shirks its responsibility to respond to them.”

In a communique issued yesterday, Amnesty International also denounced the attack: "According to the humanitarian NGO Médecins sans Frontières, a field hospital it supports near Maaret al-Numan, Idleb governorate, was hit by four missiles this morning amid Russian air raids in the area," Amnesty reported, while adding that "attacks on at least two medical facilities in Syria today are just the latest of scores of apparently deliberate attacks on hospitals, clinics and medical personnel being committed in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law".

“Russian and Syrian forces know full well that deliberate attacks on medical facilities are war crimes. All parties to the conflict must cease such horrific attacks, stop destroying medical facilities and allow medical workers to carry out their life-saving work without fear of being killed or injured in the line of duty,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

The international NGO stressed that "there are reports of other medical facilities elsewhere also seemingly targeted, including a maternal and children’s hospital in Azaz, north of Aleppo. At least one surface-to-surface missile, believed to have been fired by Syrian government forces, struck a few metres outside it, reportedly killing at least two civilians."

The NGO Physicians for Human Rights has been tracking attacks on health care workers and infrastructure amid the Syrian conflict. Before today’s assaults, the group had already documented 336 attacks on medical facilities, with 697 personnel killed. Syrian government and allied forces are suspected of carrying out the vast majority of such attacks.

While holding "Moscow fully responsible for these crimes," the Syrian Coalition warned that "the international community’s continued inaction serves as an incentive for Russia to commit more crimes in Syria. Russia’s acts in Syria will not only negatively affect the political process, but will also encourage the spread of terrorism”.

The Syrian Coalition called upon the ceasefire task force formed as part of the Munich agreement not to ignore the horrible crimes Russia continues to commit against the Syrian people. “These crimes would undermine all chances of reaching a political settlement to the conflict. The continued silence over Russia’s behavior in Syria undoubtedly represents complicity in these crimes and would ruin what has been achieved in Munich,” the Coalition said.

“These ongoing crimes, especially after the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2254 and the signing off on the Munich agreement, undermine all chances of restoring trust in the international community. They cast doubt about the international community’s ability to find a real political solution to end the tragedy unfolding in Syria,” the Coalition added.

#Russia, #Syria
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