The Assad regime and its Russian ally have been deliberately bombing hospitals in rebel-held areas to pave the way for a ground invasion, according to rights groups that accused the two allies of war crimes.
Amnesty International said it gathered “compelling evidence” of air strikes systematically targeting medical facilities in the northern Aleppo governorate.
The group said it documented at least six such attacks that killed at least three civilians and injured more than 40 over the past three months. The pattern suggested Russia and the regime used the strikes as a strategy to force residents to flee before laying siege to a town or village, the report said.
All of the people interviewed by Amnesty International said that there were no military vehicles, checkpoints, fighters or front lines near the hospitals that were attacked and that the hospitals were exclusively serving their humanitarian function.
Amnesty International’s researchers focused on six attacks in northern Aleppo between December 2015 and February 2016.
“What is truly egregious is that wiping out hospitals appears to have become part of their military strategy,” said Amnesty crisis response director, Tirana Hassan. The NGO evidence shows missile strikes and bombings struck hospitals and health clinics in the towns of Tel Rifaat, Maskan, Anadan and Hreitan, before regime forces or Kurdish fighters moved in.
“Hospitals, water and electricity are always the first to be attacked,” Amnesty quoted a doctor from Adnan as saying. “Once that happens people no longer have services to survive.”
The report said the technique was in breach of international humanitarian law and amounted to a war crime. The six cases were just a drop in an ocean of more than 340 attacks against medical facilities reported by monitoring group Physicians for Human Rights since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
Amnesty said it documented seven hospitals that had been destroyed by Russian and regime airstrikes. The hospitals are: Tel Rifaat field hospital, Tel Rifaat Hreitan special needs center, Tel Rifaat kidney dialysis center, Tel Rifaat rehabilitation center, Masqan field hospital, Anadan rehabilitation center, Al-Hadir hospital and Al-Eis hospital.
Amnesty also said it documented four hospitals that had been partially destroyed in airstrikes by the Assad regime and Russian jets. The hospitals are: Azaz women and children hospital, Baghdad hospital in the town of Hreitan, Anadan field hospital, a children’s hospital and a nursing school. (Source: Syrian Coalition)