Between June and December 2016, there were 172 attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Syria. Of this number, 72 occurred in Aleppo, according to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) report, “The Failure of UN Security Council Resolution 2286 in Preventing Attacks on Healthcare in Syria.” The Syrian government and its allies, mainly Russia, are responsible for 168 of the 172 documented attacks, said SAMS. The majority were carried out with air-to-surface missiles, but the Syrian coalition has also used weaponry that distinctly aims to intensify human suffering and casualty numbers, including chemical weapons and parachute bombs. Seven incidents of attacks on medical facilities with cluster munitions were reported.
In May 2016, UN Security Council passed Resolution 2286, which condemned attacks on medical workers and facilities and called on all parties to the armed conflict in Syria to respect international humanitarian law. However, based on evidence of attacks in Syria collected before and after the resolution, SAMS concluded that the resolution failed to have any impact in protecting health care workers in Syria. In fact, following the resolution, the rate of attacks increased from one every 55 hours, to one every 29 hours. This rose steeply from the 2015 rate of one every four days.
Russian formal intervention in Syria in October 2015 led to an intensification of airstrikes. In 2015, the rate of attacks on health workers, services, and infrastructure was one attack every four days. Following the Russian intervention in October 2015, the rate doubled to one attack every 48 hours.
“It is clear that International Humanitarian Law is insufficient to protect our patients and facilities against these attacks,” said Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, President of SAMS. Without a strong practical response from the international community that goes beyond verbal condemnation, attacks on medical workers and facilities in Syria are likely to continue.