Assad and Putin struck over 500 medical sites in Syria according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been documenting them since 2016. The military attacks took as many deaths among staff and patients.
About two-thirds of those struck were in Syria’s northwest where fighting has intensified in recent months as Damascus, backed by Russia, has sought to capture the last slice of the country beyond its control.
Both Turkey and Russia, each backing opposing sides in the conflict, agreed to a ceasefire last week. Only minor violations have occurred since.
The data WHO documented represents 494 attacks on health facilities between 2016-2019. The report is the first comprehensive time WHO has released such data on medical strikes.
Since the start of this year, it has confirmed nine further attacks, all in northwest Syria. The attacks took the lives of 10 people. WHO, did not point the finger at Assad and Putin, the two culprits.
The total death toll of medical workers and patients was 480 from January 2016 to present, it said.
ATTACKS ON HEALTH FACILITIES TAKEN FOR GRANTED
Richard Brennan, WHO’s Regional Emergency Director in the Eastern Mediterranean, said:
What is troubling, is that we’ve come to a point where attacks on health – something the international community shouldn’t tolerate – are now taken for granted; something we have become accustomed to.
He added that only half of facilities in northwest Syria, where about 1 million people displaced by recent violence are based, remain operational.
The WHO, a Geneva-based U.N. agency, is mandated to keep track of attacks on health facilities. It began doing so in 2016. The system has since then been formalized under its Surveillance System for Attacks.
Such data could help the U.N. Board of Inquiry which last year began investigating a series of incidents in northwest Syria, including attacks on health facilities.
U.N. officials have previously denounced “deliberate” attacks by the Syrian government and its allies on protected civilian sites, including hospitals and schools. If proven, these would amount to war crimes.
Mere mention of these facts seems to satisfy the conscious of those who refuse to do more.
Reuters contributed to this article.