What’s the difference between Moscow and Assad?
The basic plea to acknowledge that the remaining medical facilities in Syria must be deemed totally off limits is one that Russia cannot disregard
Russian airstrikes reportedly struck a Syrian-American Medical Society-run field hospital, killing at least 13 people, including two medical staff members, in Sarmin, Idlib province on October 20th. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova predictably dismissed the claims as “fake,” and launched a petty diatribe against the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights Director Rami Abdel Rahman, one of the people who initially reported the strikes. But the SOHR was not the only party that reported the carnage and the attack was not the first incident of Russia striking a medical facility in war-torn Syria.
Russia has reportedly targeted multiple medical facilities and hospitals – sites that should be sacred and untouchable to all warring parties despite Bashar al-Assad’s own history of destroying them.
Russia will not help end this bloody conflict
The outright denial by Moscow is only the latest claim in continued attempts to spread propaganda that utterly contradicts the apparent reality on the ground. In a new Reuters analysis, their team’s assessments concluded that a stunning 80 percent of Russian strikes have failed to target ISIS-held areas.
Moscow’s apparent inability or unwillingness to accurately report on the targets of its own attacks underscores the risk and foolishness of believing Russia will help end this bloody conflict.
According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Russia has targeted at least seven medical facilities or hospitals since beginning its aerial offensive on 30 September in Syria. On 2-3 October alone, PHR reported that Russian jets bombarded three hospitals in Hama governorate, Idlib, and Latakia. According to a press release published by the same group, the airstrike that hit al-Burnas Hospital in Latakia destroyed the site’s capability to provide obstetrics and gynecology care and was since, “only able to provide some emergency services.”
The basic plea to acknowledge that the remaining medical facilities in Syria must be deemed totally off limits is one that Russia cannot disregard. The Assad regime attacks on health care workers and the sites at which they operate are well-documented; since the conflict has begun hundreds of medical personnel have been killed while the country’s health care system has unraveled. Such barbaric, criminal attacks cannot be conducted by yet another party involved in the conflict.
U.S. attack on Kunduz hospital
As documentation regarding Russian attacks on medical facilities comes to light, the United States must face its own deadly attack on an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The U.S. airstrikes that unjustifiably bombarded the hospital, killing at least 23 people, should be subjected to a thorough inquiry. But the important inquiry and the shame of such an attack should not prevent the U.S. from publicly pressuring Russia to halt its attacks. The U.S. should step up efforts to document and confirm the Russian strikes on Syrian medical facilities and demand that an independent investigation be conducted with UN oversight.
Moscow’s apparent inability or unwillingness to accurately report on the targets of its own attacks underscores the risk and foolishness of believing Russia will help end this bloody conflict.Brooklyn Middleton
With an overwhelming number of reports detailing macabre scenes consistently emanating from Syria since 2011, the risk of collective empathy fatigue is real; but the potential horror of the remaining health care centers being obliterated or rendered useless should not be ignored.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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