The New York Times reports: The hospital in the northern Syrian town of Maarat al-Noaman was not just grazed, or damaged, by the airstrikes last week. It was destroyed, taking a direct hit that pancaked its three stories into one, entombing and killing 25 people, including nine staff members.
It was struck at around 9:02 a.m., just as day-shift workers and patients were arriving; then again at around 9:05. As rescuers swarmed around, another explosion struck at 9:45, and another at 9:48. That same morning, two airstrikes hit the National Hospital on the other side of town, which was treating nurses injured in the attack on the first facility.
This detailed account, provided by the director of the hospital, which was supported by Doctors Without Borders, is one example of why many Syrian medical workers in insurgent-held areas and human rights groups believe medical facilities are not just being hit by stray bombs or indiscriminate attacks, but have long been deliberately targeted by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. It is a measure of the deep mistrust that gravely challenges prospects for a truce set to begin Saturday.
“I had the feeling they were trying to kill me,” said the director, Dr. Mazen al-Saoud, 55, in a telephone interview from Maarat al-Noaman, his hometown. “Wherever I went, there was bombing.”
According to Doctors Without Borders, there were 94 attacks last year alone on 67 hospitals and clinics the group supports in insurgent-held areas from northern to southern Syria, destroying 12 facilities and killing 23 staff members. In 2016, there have already been 17 attacks on health facilities, including six assisted by the group. [Continue reading…]