March 31, 2017

NEW YORK, MARCH 31, 2017—A hospital in northern Syria that receives support from the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was bombed on March 25, killing two people and causing severe respiratory symptoms among patients and staff, MSF said today, denouncing the attack.

At about 6:00 p.m. local time, Latamneh hospital in northern Hama governorate was targeted by a bomb dropped by a helicopter, which hit the entrance of the building. Immediately after the impact, patients and staff reported suffering severe respiratory symptoms and burning of mucous membranes—symptoms consistent with an attack using chemicals.

The hospital's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Darwish, was one of two people killed. Thirteen people were transferred to other facilities for treatment.

"The loss of Dr. Darwish leaves just two orthopedic surgeons for a population of around 120,000," said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF's head of mission in northern Syria.

Following the attack, the hospital went out of service for three days, after which the emergency room reopened.

Latamneh hospital is located a few miles from the front line between government and opposition forces, and provides medical care for a population of around 8,000. Prior to the attacks, the hospital had an emergency room and inpatient department, and provided general and orthopedic surgery. MSF provides support such as medical supplies but does not staff the facility itself.

"Bombing hospitals, although banned by international humanitarian law, remains a common practice in Syria, and health services are severely affected by these repeated attacks," Rebaudengo said.

Despite a new round of peace talks between warring parties, which began in January, increased fighting is taking place on several fronts. In northern Hama governorate, 40,000 people have recently fled their homes due to the fighting.

Over the past year, MSF has received reports of at least 71 attacks on at least 32 different health facilities which it runs or supports in Syria. As recently as February 22, an MSF-supported health facility in Idlib governorate was hit by rockets, killing six and wounding 33.

MSF directly operates four health facilities in northern Syria and provides support to more than 150 health facilities in the country. 

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