Gaziantep/Paris—At least seven people were killed and eight are missing and presumed dead following a Monday morning attack in northern Syria that destroyed a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) the international medical humanitarian organization said today. (As of February 17, 2016, these numbers now stand at nine hospital staff members and 16 patients/caretakers killed in the attack).
The hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan, Idlib Province, was hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to staff from the hospital. Five patients, one patient caretaker, and a hospital guard were killed. Eight staff members are missing and presumed dead. Other patients are still missing, but their numbers are currently unknown.
Around 15 other houses and structures located in populated zones were struck in the area. Reports indicated that another non-MSF-supported hospital was also hit on Monday morning.
There were additional reports on Monday morning that two other hospitals in Azaz city, about 100 kilometers away, had been attacked. MSF did not support operations in those hospitals.
"The destruction of the MSF-supported facility appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure," said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF Head of Mission. "The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict," Rebaudengo said.
This is the latest incident in a horrific, lengthy string of attacks that have targeted hospitals in Syria, denying medical care to large swathes of the population. The 30-bed hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan had 54 staff, two operating theaters, an outpatient department, and an emergency room. The outpatient department treated around 1,500 people a month, and the ER carried out an average of 1,100 consultations a month. Staff also carried out around 140 operations a month—mainly orthopedic and general surgery—in the operating theaters.
MSF has been supporting the hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan since September 2015, covering all the needs and costs of the facility and providing medical supplies. In December 2015, MSF supported the reconstruction of the hospital after it had been forced to move from the previous location after being attacked three times.
Separately, fighting intensified in Azaz District, about 100 kilometers away from Ma’arat Al Numan, on Monday morning. MSF’s Al Salamah hospital in Azaz has so far received 10 war-wounded patients. In yet another attack on a medical facility, a mother and child hospital (not supported by MSF) was also been bombed in Azaz city, and staff there are relocating their pediatric operating theater into MSF's Al Salamah hospital.