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The Syrian Government Is Systematically Targeting Hospitals And Clinics

"War has ravaged our country's health system, and attacking hospitals and doctors has made this horrible situation even worse."

Posted on May 16, 2014, at 6:16 p.m. ET

Hospitals and clinics are an increasingly deadly front in Syria's three-year long civil war, according to a new report by Physicians for Human Rights.

AP Photo/Narciso Contreras, File

Aleppo's Dar Al-Shifa hospital (bottom) in ruins after government airstrikes in 2012.

The Syrian government has been systematically attacking health care providers in opposition held areas, destroying hospitals and clinics, and killing workers and patients, according to the report, released on May 14.

Nour Fourat / Reuters / Reuters

Raqqa national hospital, which activists say was hit by a Syrian Air Force fight in June 2013.

PHR created this time lapse of the rise in attacks on medical facilities in Syria since 2011.

"Instead of it being bad stuff happening in war, this was a campaign by the Syria military to destroy hospitals and clinics in areas where the government thinks the population supports the opposition," PHR Director of Programs Widney Brown told BuzzFeed.


PHR found that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad committed 90 percent of the 150 attacks on health care facilities that their researchers could confirm between March 2011 and March 2014.

Nour Fourat / Reuters

A hospital floor in Raqaa, eastern Syria, after a government shelling in Sept. 2013.

Opposition groups committed 10 attacks on health care facilities, nine of which have occurred since March 2013. No one rebel group committed the majority of attacks.

AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Widney said that the recent rise in opposition-attacks signaled how rebels were increasingly responding to government violence with violence.

Widespread and systematic attacks on medical professionals, facilities, and supplies during armed conflict violates the Geneva Conventions and could constitute a crime against humanity.

AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC

Two Syrian men injured by a government airstrike wait to be treated at a field hospital, in Aleppo on May 5.

More than 150,000 have been killed and 9 million displaced since fighting began in 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates. Nearly half of Syria's hospitals and clinics have also been totally or partially destroyed, according to the U.N.

AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN

A hospital intensive care room damaged by a car bomb near the border with Turkey in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian town of Atmeh, Syria on Feb. 23, 2004.

PHR found that the most attacks occurred in 2012 — but overall the trajectory since has been grim.

ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP / Getty Images

Emergency workers treat injured men in a make-shift clinic in Aleppo on April 16.

So far from January to March 2014, there have been at least 14 confirmed attacks on medical infrastructures and 36 medical workers killed, according to PHR.

ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP / Getty Images

An emergency worker treats an injured man at a make-shift hospital in Aleppo on April 16.

The northern city of Aleppo and suburbs around the capital Damascus have had the highest numbers of attacks on medical facilities and personnel, PHR found. When fighting breaks out, the limited medical resources available have a dire effect on civilians.

Stringer / Reuters

A man stands near his son reportedly injured by government shelling in Aleppo on Feb. 24.

On Feb. 7, government forces fired a deadly missile at a medical clinic in Aleppo, the area's last functioning hospital, killing two patients and injuring 16 people, according to PHR.

Stringer / Reuters

The government has been systematically targeting residential areas in rebel-held areas of Aleppo, HRW's has found.

Researchers confirmed that 78 health workers have been killed in the Damascus area, and 77 killed in the city of Homs, parts of which were besieged by the government for over two years. Many more go unreported.

AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

A mother comforts her 16-year-old son at a hospital in Damascus on May 4.

"War has ravaged our country's health system, and attacking hospitals and doctors has made this horrible situation even worse," a physician in Aleppo told PHR. The doctor declined to be named for security reasons.

Stringer / Reuters