Over the past week, four major reference hospitals supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in opposition-controlled areas of Rural Damascus Governorate were hit by bombing and shelling, damaging the facilities and severely limiting access to medical care. As with the ongoing siege of Aleppo, these incidents occurred as part of an intensifying military surge by the Syrian Government and its allies against opposition areas around the capital.
Khan el Shih Hospital, southwest of Damascus, was completely destroyed by bombing and shelling that started on the evening of October 5 and carried on into the night. Four bombs and around 20 missiles or shells struck the hospital and the immediate vicinity. Two staff and two patients were killed and 11 patients were injured—two of whom required surgical care.
Two sections of the Rif Damascus Hospital in the East Ghouta suburb of Douma were hit by missiles on the evening of October 3. The neonatal incubators and laboratory—indispensable facets of the hospital—were both hit and badly damaged, severely limiting the facility’s capacity to function.
What’s more, also on October 5, the two most important reference hospitals in Qudsaya and Hameh, north of Damascus, were hit. Qudsaya hospital was directly hit by an artillery shell that injured five patients, two of them severely. The hospital suffered some minor damage but has managed to continue functioning. The same evening, a helicopter dropped a bomb very close to Hameh hospital. The hospital was damaged but remains functional.
“This is another outrageous chapter in the story of violations of humanitarian law in the Syrian war,” says Brice de le Vingne, MSF Director of Operations. “It is one of the basic tenets of international common law that indiscriminate or targeted strikes on medical facilities are totally unacceptable, and we will continue to speak out when medical care itself becomes a victim of conflict.”
MSF runs six medical facilities across northern Syria and supports more than 150 health centers and hospitals across the country, including in Aleppo and other besieged areas.