Physicians for Human Rights: Assad Behind 95% of Medical Personnel Deaths in Syria

Over 650 of the nearly 700 medical personnel who have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against dictator Bashar al-Assad have been killed by the regime and its allies, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) charged in a report last week.

According to PHR, there have been 336 documented attacks against hospitals and other medical facilities in Syria between March 2011 and November 2015. Of these, 305 or over 90% have been carried out by Assad’s troops or allied forces, including Russia. Of the 697 medical personnel who lost their lives in these attacks, 95% or 662 were killed by Syria and its allies.

In terms of attacks on Syrian hospitals, this year was also the worst since the civil war began. In 2015, 112 such assaults were cataloged by PHR, a 25% increase from the previous record of 89 in 2012.

Kyung-wha Kang, the United Nation’s assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, highlighted the PHR report’s disturbing findings during a briefing to the UN Security Council on Monday.

“This loss of innocent lives and wanton indiscriminate destruction of populated areas is an outrage, and those responsible must be held accountable,” said Ms. Kang, referring specifically to Idlib in the north of the country, where six airstrikes hit a busy market place, several public buildings and residential areas yesterday, killing 43 people.

The escalation of attacks in the north of the country, reportedly by Syrian and allied forces, is such that doctors working to save injured civilians “fear that the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems are no longer the shield of protection that they must be,” she added.

“Since the start of this crisis (nearly five years ago), Physicians for Human Rights have documented 336 attacks on at least 240 medical facilities and the death of 697 medical personnel. These attacks are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and an affront to the core of our shared humanity that must be guarded – caring for the wounded and the sick,” she said.

Kang added, “I plead with the parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of health facilities, workers and patients under international humanitarian law. Similarly the removal of surgical supplies and trauma kits from convoys by the Syrian Government must end.”