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Targeting Hospitals in Syria

Posted April 29th, 2016 at 2:30 pm (UTC-4)
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To the amazement of many, Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” generally held for two months. To the surprise of none, it crumbled this week with devastating consequences.

Civil defense members search for survivors after an airstrike at a field hospital in the rebel held area of al-Sukari district of Aleppo, Syria, April 27, 2016.

Civil defense members search for survivors after an airstrike at a field hospital in the rebel held area of al-Sukari district of Aleppo, Syria, April 27, 2016.

More than 200 people have been killed this week in Aleppo between rebel attacks on government-controlled neighborhoods and government air-strikes on rebel-held territory. Most alarming was Wednesday night’s air raid on Aleppo’s Quds hospital, killing more than 20 people, including six staff members.

Targeting hospitals wreaks havoc beyond the rubble. There are now two fewer doctors, two fewer nurses to care for Aleppo’s traumatized survivors. The message is clear: no place is safe.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and blamed the Syrian government for it. With several dozen more American troops deployed to Syria in the battle against Islamic State, can Kerry and other diplomats who brokered the last cessation of hostilities duplicate their magic?

Why Warring Factors Target Hospitals

Helen Coster – Reuters

The attacks have had a cascade effect on Syria’s people, killing them directly and indirectly, when they die because their illnesses or injuries go untreated. As of February more than half of Syria’s 30,000 doctors had left the country, leaving entire communities with no healthcare.

n Syria, bombing hospitals is one of many brutal tools of war — from government siegesdesigned to starve entire communities, to chemical weapons attacks. It is a violation of the laws of war: the Fourth Geneva Convention’s “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” prohibits warring factors from targeting hospitals, as well as facilities dedicated to religion, art, science and charitable purposes.

Actually prosecuting the Assad regime for war crimes — related to hospital attacks or otherwise — is a massive challenge.

The Airstrike on an Aleppo Hospital Is a Wake-Up Call for the U.N. It Must Act Now

Joanne Liu & Peter Maurer – The Guardian

A dangerous complacency is developing whereby such attacks are starting to be regarded as the norm. They are part of the tapestry of today’s armed conflicts where civilians and civilian infrastructure are targeted, and marketplaces, schools, homes and health facilities are “fair game”…. 

That is why we, as the presidents of MSF and the ICRC, welcome the proposal for a landmark UN resolution to protect healthcare. But we urge the UN security council to make the resolution effective. First, it should send a powerful political message that healthcare needs to be protected. All parties to an armed conflict must fully comply with their obligations under international law, including humanitarian law. And they must clearly state their respect for the delivery of impartial medical care during times of conflict.

Facebook post from the direcgtor of Children’s Hospital in Aleppo about the death of Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz

The Obama Administration is ‘Giving Full Cover to the Russians’ in Syria – and the Results Are Catastrophic

Natasha Bertrand – Business Insider

People inspect the damage at al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes in a rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo, April 28, 2016.

People inspect the damage at al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes in a rebel-held area of Syria’s Aleppo, April 28, 2016.

Many analysts argue that the cessation of hostilities (CoH) brokered by the US and Russia in February has legitimized Russia and Assad’s unwillingness to differentiate between Islamic extremists and more moderate, Western-backed opposition groups. The truce, they say, has allowed forces loyal to Assad to keep bombing rebel territory, as long as they can argue that terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are present.

As such, many are questioning the extent to which the agreement gave Assad and his allies cover to plan their onslaught on Aleppo.

“I was told back in February that a full Aleppo offensive would take 2-3 months to prepare,” The Washington Post’s Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly tweeted on Thursday. “So the CoH just filled the gap.”

The Latest Aleppo Battle May Give the Islamic State Another Reprieve

Fabrice Balanche – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Despite the ongoing peace negotiations in Geneva, each camp in the Syria war is preparing for a general resumption of hostilities in the Aleppo area. In addition to the strategically important city itself, the Islamic State-occupied territory between Aleppo and the Euphrates is increasingly becoming a focal point, shifting attention away from the group’s stronghold to the east and likely further delaying the Obama administration’s goal of pushing IS out of its “capital” in Raqqa.




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