More than 800 health workers have been killed in “acts of war crimes” in Syria since 2011, including hospital bombings, shootings, torture and executions perpetrated mainly by the Assad regime forces, researchers said on Wednesday.
The Assad regime and its Russian allies have used health care as a weapon of war, according to an analysis published in The Lancet medical journal.
This “weaponization” of health care, the report said, “has translated into hundreds of health workers killed, hundreds more incarcerated or tortured and hundreds of health facilities deliberately and systematically attacked.”
“The international community has left these violations of international humanitarian and human rights law largely unanswered,” authors of the report said.
The report was compiled by experts from universities in Beirut, Britain and the United States, as well as the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and Multi-Aid Programs, an NGO.
Of the total numbers of health workers killed, 247 were doctors, 176 nurses, and 146 medics, according to Physicians for Human Rights, a non-profit group.
Shelling and bombing of hospitals and clinics accounted for 426 (55 per cent) of deaths, the report said. Shootings of medical professionals accounted for the second biggest death toll with 180 deaths, torture with 101, and executions with 61.
The figure of 800 was probably a gross underestimate, the report added.
The evidence suggested that the Assad regime targeted medics as a strategy, to an extent never before seen in war, the researchers said.
The majority of the attacks on health facilities, 94 per cent, were the work of “the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia.” The report also said that the number of attacks rose from 91 in 2012 to at least 199 in 2016.
“With the military surge that began in late September 2015, when Russia joined Syrian government forces, 2016 marked the worst year of the conflict to date in terms of attacks on medical facilities,” the study said.
Almost a third of Syrians now live in areas with no health workers whatsoever, and another third are in areas with insufficient care, the report added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department of + Agencies )