‘Why are the Russians bombing my ambulances?’

Michael Weiss writes: Dr. Ammar Martini has a simple question he would like answered: “Why are the Russians bombing my hospitals and ambulances?”

One of the cofounders of Orient Humanitarian Relief, a non-profit that provides medical treatment and educational services in northern and central Syria, Martini was recounting to The Daily Beast how Russian airstrikes in the Idlib countryside Saturday destroyed a part of his emergency ambulance center. “They destroyed four or five of our vehicles,” he said. “These attacks were specifically targeting Orient.”

Below is a video Oubai Shahbandar, a former Pentagon officials turned Orient employee, shared The Daily Beast, showing the charred vehicles. “If the Russians think ambulances are legitimate terrorist targets,” Shahbandar emailed, “imagine what they’re going to do to the rest of Syria.”

It’s been a dark week for medical volunteers, all around. A Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was struck repeatedly on Saturday by U.S. warplanes. 19 were killed, the majority of them hospital workers. Colonel Brian Tribus, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said that any powdered medical facilities constituted “collateral damage” against legitimate Taliban targets threatening U.S. forces in the area. Doctors Without Borders countered that there were no militants in or around its facility, and accused the American military of a “war crime.” That isn’t clear, at this point. But what is apparent is that the Kunduz hospital attack is a major violation of the standards U.S. forces have set for themselves. A military investigation is underway, and the Pentagon has now retracted its initial claim that American soldiers were under threat.

Russia, too, nearly hit a separate Doctors Without Borders hospital in a refugee camp in Al Yamdiyyah, Latakia. According to McClatchy, “The bomb struck in the village just a few hundred yards from the actual border, wounding several townspeople, local residents said. The Doctors Without Borders hospital apparently was not damaged.” However, Dr. Jawad Abu Hatab, a heart surgeon at the hospital, told the news agency that he believed Russia had been targeting the site and missed.

So far, 80 percent of Russia’s air sorties in Syria have hit decidedly non-ISIS targets, mainly in the center, north, and west of the country. That’s where, in addition to civilians, a grab bag of opposition fighters ranging from hardline Islamists to al-Qaeda to U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army units have all had bullseyes painted on their backs. [Continue reading…]

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