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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
November 2, 2015

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Despite Russia's Claims, Their Airstrikes Are Hitting Hospitals

Since the start of Russia's airstrikes in Syria at the end of September, one of Russia's favorite targets appears to be hospitals in rebel-controlled territory. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warns that 35 patients and doctors have been killed and another 72 have been wounded in Russian airstrikes against 12 medical facilities in Syria. This does not account for those who now cannot be treated as a result of the destruction of medical facilities in areas where Russian and Assad airstrikes and regime ground offensives are ravaging both civilian and non-civilians alike.

The Telegraph reports:

Almost 600 people are believed to have been killed in Russia's daily airstrikes.

Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, have destroyed or damaged hundreds of medical facilities during the country’s four year war. A US-led coalition targeting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is also accused of bombing at least five hospitals in Syria during its year-long campaign.
Refugee agencies said this week that they had recorded a sharp rise in the number of people displaced as a result of fresh government offensives across multiple fronts.

The UN estimates that more than 120,000 people are on the move in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib. Some have sought refuge in fields and nearby villages while more than 1,700 families have arrived at the Atmeh refugee camp, joining more than 110,000 people seeking refuge there as winter approaches.

“They need safety. They need security. They need to stop living from one moment to the next, wondering when the next bomb will fall,” said [ Sylvain Groulx, the head of MSF’s operation in Syria].

Twelve Syria hospitals hit by airstrikes as Russian jets bombard country

Almost 600 people are believed to have been killed in Russia's daily airstrikes. Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, have destroyed or damaged hundreds of medical facilities during the country's four year war. A US-led coalition targeting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is also accused of bombing at least five hospitals in Syria during its year-long campaign.

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Nov 03, 2015 02:52 (GMT)
The Russian state-operated propaganda network, Sputnik, has a curious twist in the Russian government response to the allegations -- that not only is Russia not bombing hospitals, the hospitals don't even exist.

The Russian Defense Ministry released this statement, via Sputnik:

"I would like to remind you that a week ago several leading Western media outlets citing the US-based Syrian American Medical Society accused us of allegedly bombing hospitals in  al-Ees, al-Hader, Khan Tuman, Sarmin, Latamna and al-Zirba," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters.

The spokesman added, that "all these reports were made without any proof."

"We investigated this information. It turned out, in fact, that there is a hospital only in the settlement of Sarmin. There are no hospitals in al-Ees, al-Hader, Khan Tuman, Latamna and al-Zirba, and, consequently, there are no healthcare workers," he added.


The pro-Kremlin outlet Russian Insider, a propaganda outlet run by Westerners with business ties to Russia,  has taken the lead, it seems, and run with a story that attempts to discredit the claims by attacking several sources cited by main-stream media and the US State Department, attacking the admittedly-dubious Syrian Observatory For Human Rights and launching an ad hominem and unsubstantiated criticism of several other organizations, including the internationally-funded and well-established Physicians for Human Rights (SAMS).

Russian Insider did not address the claims made by MFS.

The reality, however, is that there is plenty of evidence that medical facilities exist in these locations and there is significant evidence to support that they were attacked. Orient Humanitarian Relief, a nonprofit that provides medical treatment and educational services in northern and central Syria, told The Daily Beast as early as October 6 that their ambulances, then their hospital, was under attack. Furthermore, intrepid journalists have documented the destruction of hospitals, and pictures such as these show damage to the hospitals:

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) insists that hospitals it operates have been hit:

According to staff at the hospitals, the attacks, which have also wounded 72 people, targeted medical facilities in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates, including six supported by MSF. Overall, six hospitals have been forced to close, including three supported by MSF, and four ambulances were destroyed. One hospital has since reopened, yet access to emergency, maternity, pediatric, and primary health care services remains severely disrupted.

"After more than four years of war, I remain flabbergasted at how international humanitarian law can be so easily flouted by all parties to this conflict," said Sylvain Groulx, MSF head of mission for Syria. "We can only wonder whether this concept is dead. So many humanitarians and health actors including MSF have repeatedly called and are calling for an immediate halt to such attacks across the country, but are our voices being heard?"

As a result of the growing number of attacks in the region, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, said MSF. Some have sought refuge in fields and nearby villages. According to MSF community health workers, others have fled further, with some 1,700 families joining an existing 110,000 internally displaced Syrians in four cluster camps spread around Atmeh, in Idlib Governorate. In the past week alone, 225 additional families have arrived at the camps.

Several of the organizations mentioned above have also been critical of US government actions, particularly MSF which is accusing the US government of possible war crimes due to the accidental bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan, so the pro-Kremlin media's insinuation that these organizations are somehow eager to spread propaganda to support Western governments is curious, as is the insinuation that areas near the front line of fighting in Syria do not have field hospitals.

-- James Miller

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