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Targeting Health
Attacks on medical facilities in Syria
Ten years
410 attacks documented against medical facilities
“You have to choose who will be saved and who will not. This is one of the most difficult situations a doctor can face.”
Abdul Razaaq Qadour, General Director of the Cave Hospital in the northern Hama countryside
Since 2011, documenters have filmed grave violations of human rights. Airstrikes, attacks with chemical weapons, and destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure.
It is illegal to attack a hospital under the international laws of armed conflict.
Syrian Archive has collected documentation of more than 400 attacks against medical facilities
Most of those incidents had indicators of being intentionally attacked
And more than half of cases are likely to have been perpetrated by Syrian or Russian forces.
Nearly half of the hospitals attacked should already have been known to parties because they existed before 2011
Many of the documented attacks happened in areas meant to be protected, called deescalation zones.
One of these hospitals was in Kafr Zita, in Syria's north west.
Once a hospital specializing in surgeries and maternity care, it served a large population from the area near Hama.
To try to protect the facility, medical teams moved underground. Still, the attacks continued. Most were direct hits.
In three cases, there were chemical weapons attacks nearby at the same time as attacks on the Kafr Zita hospital.
By 2018 medical staff were operating out of a cave in a hillside.
This was done with the hope of remaining hidden from targeting.
The attacks did not stop.
Syrian Archive found that all 11 attacks on Kafr Zita medical facilities were likely perpetrated by Syrian and Russian forces.
Eventually, after years of attacks, the Syrian government regained control of the Kafr Zita area.
In March 2021, videos from Russian media showed the military touring the abandoned hospital. In the video, the journalist says the cave hospital provided medical services, including complex surgeries, to military. He reports that in order to avoid it being used again, the Russian soldiers are blocking the entrances to the cave.
After 9 documented attacks, two on the cave hospital, and this final bombing by the Russian military, the medical facility in Kafr Zita is out of service, perhaps permanently.
“I wish I had died before seeing (the hospital destroyed)... It was a project I oversaw in all its details, building every little piece of it, digging each part, facing the difficulties and overcoming them. Then in one second, with 7 tons of explosives, they just detonate and destroy it like that.”
“You feel that you are targeted. Even if your work is purely humanitarian, you are being targeted.”
-Abdul Razaaq Qadour, General Director of the Cave Hospital in the northern Hama countryside
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