Camp and hospitals hit by shelling in northwestern Syria

Shelling by Syrian government forces hit a displacement camp and several health facilities in Idlib province.

Mobile clinic in Al-Fuqara camp in Al-Dana area

Syria 2023 © Abdul Majeed Al Qareh/MSF

The photo above was taken before the shelling.

Since October 3, areas of Idlib and Aleppo in northwestern Syria have come under fire from Syrian government forces, including a displacement camp and several health facilities that were hit by shelling. This most recent escalation of conflict in northwestern Syria has taken a huge toll on people living in the area and has devastated the already struggling health system.

“These attacks are unacceptable and have disastrous consequences for already vulnerable people and on the already fragile health system in northwestern Syria,” said Siham Hajaj Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission for northwestern Syria. “All warring parties should respect International Humanitarian Law, protect people and civilian infrastructure, and safeguard medical facilities.”

The targeting campaign began hours after an attack on a graduation ceremony of officers in Homs, a province under the government’s control.   

Three hospitals in Idlib—the University Hospital, the National Hospital, and Al-Mohafatha Hospital—were hit by shelling, leaving them partially out of service. 

Al-Sanaa camp for internally displaced people in Daret Ezza, where MSF was conducting activities in the community, was shelled. Women and children in the camp have been evacuated to safer areas. However, the conditions in these areas are extremely challenging due to the lack of essential services such as water, latrines, food, and shelter. The overcrowded living conditions make the situation worse.   

It is estimated that at least 78,000 people have been displaced, while efforts to provide humanitarian aid are hindered by the ongoing hostilities. According to local health authorities, at least 46 people have been killed and 279 injured, including women and children. Sixty wounded people, including two women, were treated and five people succumbed to their injuries at MSF-supported facilities.

Approximately 19 hospitals in Idlib and Western Aleppo have stopped providing non-essential services to focus on providing emergency care to respond to the casualties, making access to health care even more challenging.

Local health authorities are urging medical personnel to prioritize emergency care for those most in need and for medical specialists to assist major referral hospitals in Idlib and closer to the frontlines.

“We are in contact with hospitals and medical facilities on the frontlines, to inform [them] that we are fully prepared to receive patients directly,” said Abo Mahmood Al Homsi*, MSF medical activity manager in Idlib.    

MSF has delivered medicines and supplies to multiple displacement reception centers in the region, including Mashhad Ruhein, Termanin, and Kafr Beni. In addition, MSF has donated blood transport bags to the blood bank in Atarib. We have also provided medicines, surgical kits, and other supplies to five hospitals and two medical points in Idlib, and extended logistical support to the Atmeh Charitable Hospital.   

"Urgent action needs to be taken to improve trauma and surgical capabilities in Idlib,” said Hajaj. “These resources are already limited in the area. This is important for providing care to those injured in the war, as well as dealing with the long-term effects of increased explosive contamination in populated areas."

In the city of Ariha, where artillery and missile shelling has caused deaths and numerous injuries, MSF in collaboration with local partners is providing essential care to four injured people at a health center while others were referred to hospitals in Idlib for further treatment.

This new cycle of violence will only exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in northwestern Syria, following more than a decade of war. MSF is committed to assessing the medical and humanitarian needs of affected communities and remains dedicated to delivering life-saving medical care to people in need.   

*Name changed for security reasons.