Syrian and Russian forces ‘weaponised healthcare’ by deliberately targeting ambulances in civil war, researchers say

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Syrian authorities and Russian armed forces intentionally and repeatedly focused ambulances as a part of a calculated technique to realize the higher hand within the nation’s civil warfare, a brand new research has claimed.

Researchers analysed over 200 particular person assaults involving 243 ambulances, greater than half of which had been intentionally focused. Some 60 per cent of the assaults had been carried out by Syrian authorities forces, whereas 29 per cent had been blamed on Russia, which joined the battle on the facet of President Bashar al-Assad in 2015.

The “weaponisation of healthcare” has been used all through the battle “to destabilise, intimidate, and demoralise”, the researchers wrote in BMJ World Well being, a peer-reviewed on-line journal.

After learning information from particular person experiences submitted to the Syrian Community for Human Rights, they described Syria as “probably the most harmful place on the planet to be a healthcare supplier”, the place “no cadre of well being employee or well being facility is proof against the assaults”.

“The intentional, extremely damaging and repetitive concentrating on of ambulances all through the Syrian battle has had an immeasurable and devastating influence on the folks of Syria and the healthcare system,” the researchers added within the paper, titled “Ambulances underneath siege in Syria”.

They additional famous that a lot of the assaults occurred in areas held by insurgent forces, reminiscent of Aleppo, Idlib and Damascus. Just one-2 per cent came about in pro-government areas.  

The deliberate concentrating on of healthcare services has been a continuing theme of Syria’s civil warfare. Even when coordinates of healthcare services have been offered to all related events, they’ve been destroyed or focused in assaults. Consequently, most hospitals in rebel-held areas had been compelled to moved underground to keep away from being focused, and their areas saved secret. 

Because the battle started in 2011, Physicians for Human Rights has documented 542 attacks on medical sites. The rights group discovered the Syrian authorities and Russian forces accountable for 490 of them. Opposition teams had been behind 23 of these assaults, whereas the US-led coalition was blamed for 3.

Dr Zaher Sahloul, president of MedGlobal, an organisation that sends medical missions into Syria, labored in hospitals within the nation that had been focused a number of occasions. 

“The final hospital the place I labored in Aleppo was constructed underground as a result of it was attacked 17 occasions. Regardless of that, after I left it was focused with a bunker buster,” he advised The Unbiased. “Clearly that was the Russians, as a result of the Syrian military doesn’t have entry to that type of weapon,” he added.  

Dr Sahloul, who visited Syria a complete of 12 occasions all through the warfare on humanitarian medical missions, stated the purpose of the assaults on medical services was “to drive folks out of their neighbourhood and their cities”.

“If folks have a look at the numbers of the Syrian disaster now and see thousands and thousands of refugees, half of the inhabitants displaced, this is the reason. Persons are typically prepared to remain by so much if they’ve a practical hospital. However once you kill the hospitals and bomb ambulances, folks depart,” he added.  

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In 2016, the United Nations Safety Council handed a decision that condemned assaults on medical services and personnel in armed battle. Regardless of these efforts, the World Well being Organisation reported earlier this yr that assaults on well being services had elevated within the first two months of 2018.

Within the first eight months of this yr, the WHO stated assaults on medical services had precipitated 97 deaths and 165 accidents of healthcare workers and their sufferers.

The researchers of the BMJ World Well being research, from Columbia College Medical Centre and the Mount Sinai St Luke’s hospital, each in New York Metropolis, known as for the UN to do extra “to guard the sacred area of medical neutrality in battle and produce harsher punishments to perpetrators of violence in opposition to healthcare in Syria”.

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