Russian–Syrian hospital bombing campaign

During the Syrian Civil War, Russian and Syrian government forces have allegedly conducted a campaign that has focused on the destruction of hospitals and medical facilities within areas not under the control of the Syrian government. Russian and Syrian officials have repeatedly denied deliberately targeting medical facilities.

Russian-Syrian hospital bombing campaign
Part of Syrian Civil War
DateSeptember 2015 – present
Status Ongoing
Medical facilities held under FSA territory
Several Russian and Syrian warplanes Anti-aircraft fire


Prior to Russian forces taking an active combat role in the Syrian Civil War, Syrian government forces had previously attacked medical facilities in areas not under their control. Attacks began in early 2012.[1] These attacks included an August 2012 attack,[2] and a November 2012 attack both on the Dar al-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo.[3] United Nations investigators called the attacks systematic.[4] In an effort to refer the Syrian government to the International Criminal Court, the People's Republic of China and Russia blocked an attempted referral in 2014.[5] Physicians for Human Rights estimates that medical facilities were attacked over 300 times between March 2011 and August 2015, with 90% being conducted by Syrian government forces.[6]

Medical facilities attacked by Russian or Syrian forces in Syria

After Russia began military operations in Syria, aerial bombardment intensified.[7] In 2015, there were more than 300 attacks on medical facilities by Syrian and Russian forces.[8] From May to December 2016, medical facilities were attacked about 200 times by Russian and Syrian forces.[9]

Hospitals in Aleppo were attacked multiple times. Before March 2016, more than six hospitals were attacked in the Aleppo Governorate.[8] In April 2016, over two dozen were killed when a Russian airstrike hit a hospital;[10] the hospital served as the area's primary pediatric care facility.[11] In July 2016, M2 Hospital was attacked by aircraft.[12] By the end of the month, six hospitals in Aleppo had been destroyed.[13] In October 2016, M10 Hospital was attacked by airstrikes.[14]

Hospital attacks were not limited to Aleppo. In October 2015, a Russian aircraft attacked a medical facility operated by the Syrian American Medical Society in the town of Sarmin.[15] In February 2016, a children's hospital was hit in Azaz; Russians claimed they targeted ISIL infrastructure.[16] That same month two hospitals in Maarrat al-Nu'man were attacked by Syrian forces, one being a Doctors Without Borders supported facility;[17] Syria claimed that one of the attacks was done by American forces.[18] In July 2016, a hospital was attacked by Russian forces in Atarib.[13] In August 2016, a medical facility was attacked once every 17 hours.[5] One of these attacks was an attack on the last functioning hospital in Darayya;[5] the attack was done with barrel bombs filled with napalm.[19] In April 2017, a hospital was attacked in Maarat al-Nu'man.[20] After a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a clinic treating those who were gassed was attacked by Syrian forces;[21] due to this event U.S. launched a missile strike against Shayrat Air Base.[22]

In September 2017, Qasioun News reported that Syrian government warplanes carried out several airstrikes on Rahma Hospital in Khan Sheikhon city, southern Idlib, causing material damage to the building and causing the hospital to go out of service, as well as injuries among civilians. Furthermore, Syrian government warplanes carried out 3 airstrikes on Orient Hospital, near Kafranabl area, south of Idlib, but no casualties were reported.[23] Also on same date, the Russian warplanes conducted airstrikes on al-Tah Hospital in the countryside of Idlib, killing two nurses and some patients, and inflicting heavy damage to the hospital, as well as causing some injuries among the doctors.[24]

In October 2017, the ICRC said that up to 10 hospitals had been reportedly damaged in the past 10 days, cutting off hundreds of thousands of people from access to healthcare, voicing alarm at the situation from Raqqa to Idlib and eastern Ghouta. "For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties," Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC's delegation in Syria, said.[25]

Attacks on hospitals in Idlib continued into early 2018, following use of chemical weapons against areas controlled by forces opposed to the Syrian government.[26] In April 2018, chemical weapons were used in an attack on a hospital in Douma;[27] the hospital had been supported by the Syrian American Medical Society.[28] Non-Russian and non-Syrian claims were that the chemical attack was carried out by Syrian forces.[29] The Syrian government denied making a chemical attack.[30] Russia denied that chemical weapons were used in Douma;[31] later it claimed that the attack was staged by the United Kingdom.[32] As a result of the attack on Douma, Israeli aircraft attacked an air base in Syria on 9 April;[33] French, British, and American forces attacked targets in Syria on 14 April.[34]

The UN's humanitarian office said that, between late April and June 2019, a total of 24 health facilities and 35 schools had been hit by the Syrian government and Russian air raids and rocket fire on the Idlib region.[35] The coordinates of nine of those health facilities were shared with the UN, which passed them to Russia in an effort to protect them from being bombed and encourage some form of accountability for attacks. Instead, they also came under fire.[36][37] On 15 May 2019, Syrian government forces bombed the Tarmala Maternity and Children's Hospital in South Idlib, completely destroying the facility, which had served about 6,000 people a month. According to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, it was the 19th health-care facility bombed in Syria since April 28.[38]

International reaction

The attacks on hospitals have been described as a "sophisticated strategy" in The Interpreter.[39] In October 2015, the United States Department of State Spokesman John Kirby said that hospitals in Syria were attacked by Russian forces.[40] In February 2016, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr. said that Russia was responsible for attacking hospitals in Syria.[41] In late September 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said attacks on hospitals in Aleppo constituted war crimes.[42] In October 2016, the United States ended direct contact with Russians involved in a campaign against ISIL, to which Russia suspended an agreement it had with the U.S. regarding the reduction of plutonium.[43] In November 2016, then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice issued a warning to Syria and Russia regarding repeated bombings of hospitals.[44] In February 2017, the Atlantic Council issued a report documenting Russian bombings of hospitals during the campaign to take Aleppo, which Russia has denied.[12] The report also documented the use of chemical weapons by forces supporting the Syrian government.[7]

Russia has denied claims that it has targeted hospitals.[45]

In early June 2019, after more than 20 hospitals in Syria’s north-west were targeted, dozens of prominent doctors - include Denis Mukwege, Peter Agre, Sarah Wollaston, Terence English, David Nott, and Zaher Sahloul - called for urgent action to halt the bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian planes, urging the UN to investigate the targeting of listed hospitals and asked the international community to put pressure on Russia and Syria to stop targeting medical centers and reverse funding cuts to surviving hospitals and clinics that were now overwhelmed by refugees.[46] Dr Mohamed Zahid, from Physicians Across Continents, a medical organisation working in Syria, said that doctors working in rebel-held northern Syria will no longer share the locations of medical facilities with the United Nations after doing so failed to stop them being targeted by airstrikes. He said "last year six hospitals were attacked, and this month another eight hospitals were attacked after their coordinates were shared with the UN. So most NGOs in Syria decided to stop this process."[36]

See also


  1. Nebehay, Stephanie (13 September 2013). "Syria attacks hospitals, denies healthcare as 'weapon of war': U.N." Reuters. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  2. "Syria: Fighter Planes Strike Aleppo Hospital". Human Rights Watch. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  3. Cheikh Omar, Ammar (21 November 2012). "Dozens killed in attack on Aleppo hospital, Syrian rebel leader says". CNN. United States. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  4. Cumming-Bruce, Nick (13 September 2013). "U.N. Reports Syria Uses Hospital Attacks as a 'Weapon of War'". New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  5. "The ultimate barbarity". The Economist. United Kingdom: Economist Group. 3 September 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  6. Chulov, Martin; Malik, Shiv (22 October 2015). "Four Syrian hospitals bombed since Russian airstrikes began, doctors say". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
    Fahim, Kareem (22 October 2015). "Group Cites 7 Attacks on Hospitals Across Syria". New York Times. United States. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  7. Reevel, Patrick (13 February 2017). "Report suggests Russia tried to conceal airstrikes on Syrian hospitals". ABC News. United States. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  8. "Russia, Syria deliberately bombing hospitals — Amnesty". The Times of Israel. Associated Press. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2017. He also noted that Syria's ambassador to Russia said the hospital was destroyed by the Americans.
  9. Cook, Jesselyn (27 December 2016). "Syrian Medical Facilities Were Attacked More Than 250 Times This Year". The World Post. New York City: Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute. Retrieved 31 March 2017. The rate of assaults doubled after Russia’s military intervention in the conflict in September 2015, the medical society’s figures show. And nearly 200 occurred after May 3, when the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution strongly condemning violence against those providing and receiving medical treatment in the country.
  10. Onyanga-Omara, Jane; Dorell, Oren (28 April 2016). "At least 27 killed in airstrike on Syria hospital". USA Today. United States. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  11. "Children's Hospital Attacked in Syria". WNYC. New York City. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  12. Gordon, Michael R. (12 February 2017). "Report Rebuts Russia's Claims of Restraint in Syrian Bombing Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  13. Gutman, Roy (27 July 2016). "Assad and Putin's Sick Strategy Bombing Hospitals". The Daily Beast. United States. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  14. "Syria conflict: Aleppo bombing shuts largest hospital". BBC. United Kingdom. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
    "Bombs fall on Aleppo's largest hospital as Russia sends more warplanes to Syria". Vice News. New York City. 1 October 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
    Reuters, Thomson (1 October 2016). "Russia, Syrian army accused of destroying hospital, killing at least 2". CBC. Canada. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  15. "13 dead as Russia strike hits Syria field hospital: monitor". Yahoo! News. United States. AFP. 21 October 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  16. Gurses, Ercan; Al-Khalidi, Suleiman (16 February 2016). "Missiles in Syria kill 50 as schools, hospitals hit; Turkey accuses Russia". Reuters. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
    Sims, Alexandra (15 February 2016). "Syrian war: Suspected Russian air strikes destroy two hospitals – despite so-called Syria 'ceasefire'". Independent. United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
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  18. "U.S. and Russia both deny bombing Syrian clinic". CBS. United States. Associated Press. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  19. Westcott, Lucy (19 August 2016). "Activists Report Napalm Attack on Last Remaining Hospital In Daraya, Syria". Newsweek. United States. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  20. "Syria: Rescue teams blame Russia for hospital bombing". Al Jazeera. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  21. Williams, Jennifer (5 April 2017). "Bashar al-Assad just gassed his own people, then bombed the clinic treating victims". VOX. United States. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  22. Stewart, Phil; Holland, Steve (7 April 2017). "U.S. fires missiles at Assad airbase, escalating role in Syrian war". Reuters. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  23. Syrian warplanes bombard 2 hospitals in Southern Idlib. Iraqi News. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  24. Russia conducts airstrikes on al-Tah Hospital, 2 nurses killed. Iraqi News. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  25. Syria violence at worst level since Aleppo: ICRC. October 5, 2017. Al Jazeera. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  26. Abdulrahim, Raja (5 February 2018). "Syria Airstrikes Hit Hospitals in Rebel Territory". Wall Street Journal. United States. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
    "Syria war: 'Chlorine attack' on rebel-held Idlib town". BBC News. United Kingdom. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
    Corkery, Claire (5 February 2018). "Incubators for newborns shut down after airstrikes hit Idlib hospitals". The National. United Arab Eremites. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
    El Deeb, Sarah; Issa, Philip (5 February 2018). "Syria, Russia step up airstrikes against rebel strongholds in last 24 hours". The Star. Toronto, Canada. The Associated Press. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  27. Hubbard, Ben (11 April 2018). "In a Syrian Town, People Started Shouting: 'Chemicals! Chemicals!'". New York Times. United States. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    "Dozens reported killed in suspected Syria gas attack; Damascus denies". CNBC. United States. Reuters. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Shaheen, Kareem (8 April 2018). "Dozens killed in suspected chemical attack on Syrian rebel enclave". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    "Dozens dead in suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria". Deutsche Welle. Germany. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  28. Sly, Liz; Haidamous, Suzan; Ajroudi, Asma (11 April 2018). "Nerve gas used in Syria attack, leaving victims 'foaming at the mouth,' evidence suggests". Washington Post. United States. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  29. "Syria war: What we know about Douma 'chemical attack'". BBC News. United Kingdom. 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Loveluck, Louisa; Cunningham, Erin (8 April 2018). "Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say". Washington Post. United States. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Lusher, Adam (8 April 2018). "Syrian government accused of using nerve agents as death toll from Douma 'chemical weapons attack' rises". Independent. United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  30. "Scores of Syrians Killed in Suspected Chemical Attack by Assad Forces". Haaretz. Israel. Reuters. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  31. "Russia denies chemical weapons used in Syria's Douma, Ifax reports". Reuters. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  32. Isachenkov, Vladimir (13 April 2018). "Russia says suspected chemical attack in Syria was staged by UK". PBS News Hour. United States. Associated Press. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Steinbuch, Yaron (13 April 2018). "Russia claims Britain staged chemical attack in Syria". New York Post. United States. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  33. Neuman, Scott (9 April 2018). "Russia, Syria: Israeli Jets Strike Air Base After Alleged Poison Gas Attack In Douma". NPR. United States. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Borger, Julian; Sheehen, Kareem (9 April 2018). "Syria and Russia accuse Israel of missile attack on Assad airbase". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  34. Tibon, Amir; Khoury, Jack; Landau, Nao (14 April 2018). "U.S., France and U.K. Strike Syria Over Chemical Attack". Haaretz. Israel. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    Graham, Chris; Riley-Smith, Ben; Sabur, Rozina; Henderson, Barney (14 April 2018). "Syria airstrikes: America, Britain and France target Assad's chemical facilities in aerial barrage - latest news". Telegraph. United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
    "US, France, Britain launch strikes on Syria". Hurriyet Daily News. Turkey. 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  35. "Syrian air strikes kill civilians in besieged Idlib". Al Jazeera. Qatar. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  36. Hall, Richard; Daragahi, Borzou (3 June 2019). "Doctors in Idlib will no longer share coordinates of hospitals with UN after repeated attacks from Russian and Syrian forces". Independent. United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  37. "Syria: at least 15 hospitals targeted in Idlib and Hama since beginning of May". Amnesty International. 17 May 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
    "Idlib: Millions in Need of Protection. The World Must Act Now". Amnesty International. 17 May 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  38. Cole, Diane (17 May 2019). "In Syria, Reports Of 19 Medical Facilities Bombed Since April 28". National Public Radio. United States. Retrieved 3 July 2019..
  39. "Why Russia Is Bombing Hospitals In Syria". The Interpreter. New York City. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  40. "Russian bombing hits Syrian hospital: US". Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. Reuters. 30 October 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  41. Engel, Pamela (21 February 2016). "People are 'too afraid to go to hospitals' in Syria — and it signals Russia's gruesome endgame in the war". Business Insider. New York City. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  42. "Syria hospital attacks are 'war crimes': Ban Ki-moon". Business Standard. New Delhi. AFP. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  43. Borger, Julian; Chulov, Martin (3 October 2016). "US suspends Syria talks with Russia over bombing of rebel-held areas". Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  44. Fatzick, Joshua (19 November 2016). "White House Scolds Russia, Syria for Aleppo Hospital Bombings". Voice of America. United States. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  45. Soguel, Dominique (13 November 2015). "Are Russian air strikes targeting hospitals in Syria?". Christian Science Monitor. United States. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
    Birnbaum, Michael; Morris, Loveday (16 February 2016). "Russia pushes back against reports its planes bombed hospital in Syria". Washington Post. United States. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
    Quinn, Ben (17 February 2017). "MSF inquiry indicates Russia was behind hospital bombing in Syria". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  46. Graham-Harrison, Emma; McKernan, Bethan (2 June 2019). "Stop the carnage: doctors call for an end to Syria hospital airstrikes". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 July 2019.

See also

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