A Canadian-supported clinic in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo is the latest health facility to be destroyed in an apparent strike by Sryian regime forces.
The Al Marjeh Primary Health Care Centre was hit in an air strike Friday, according to a statement the organization’s Facebook page.
Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, known by its French acronym UOSSM, supported the hospital.
The clinic treated more than 1,800 patients, most of them women and children. Dr. Anas Al-Kassem, the head off UOSSM Canada, told Global News, adding it was fortunate it was the weekend and the clinic was closed to patients.
However, in the wake of the bombing of another hospital earlier this week, Al-Kassem said doctors and nurses are “panicking” because they know they are being targeted.
“We should [be able to] work freely. We are providing health care services to everyone in the country, regardless of their background, religion and so forth and this has to stop,” Al-Kassem said in a Skype interview from Oakville, Ont. “This is a war crime.”
That’s the same language used after more than 50 people died in an air strike on the Doctors Without Borders-supported Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo Wednesday.
The strikes on both healthcare facilities have been blamed on the Syrian regime or Russia, which continues to back Syrian government forces and President Bashar al-Assad.
In the aftermath of the strike on the Al-Quds hospital, both Syria and Russia denied having anything to do with the strike, pointing the blame at the so-called Islamic State.
But Al-Kassem said he believes the Russians may have had a hand in the recent spate of attacks on health facilities because they were targeting civilian areas. Human rights groups estimate as many as 2,000 civilians died in six months of Russian-led airstrikes to support Syrian forces.
Russia said in March it pulled out a significant portion of its military assets, saying its main goals had been achieved. But it was not a complete withdrawal and the Kremlin said it would keep its air and naval base operational with some troops remaining in the country.
Al-Kassem said the situation in Aleppo had improved somewhat in the past months and some refugees returned to the city, following a fragile peace deal between the Syrian government and rebel fighters. But know it appears there’s a move to drive out health care providers and, subsequently, the opposition.
Amnesty International made the same claim in March, when it accused Russian and Syrian forces of “deliberately attacking health facilities [as] part of their military strategy.”
The organization noted reports of attacks on as many as 27 hospitals and health facilities in Aleppo between the start of the Russian bombing campaign in September and early March.
The bombing of the MSF-supported Al-Quds hospital claimed the life of the last pediatrician in Aleppo — Syria’s second-largest city with a population between two and three million before the start of the war in 2011.
One of the casualties of Wednesday’s attack on the Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital was Aleppo’s last pediatrician, Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz.
Toronto pediatrician Dr. Jay Dahman has visited the opposition rebel-held city several times to assist doctors and health care workers with his organization, the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization. Dahman, who co-founded the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization, said he met Maaz during a trip to Aleppo last July.
“He was manning the fort by himself with his nursing staff and the staff that [were] around him,” Dahman said of Maaz’s work at the 30-bed Al-Quds hospital. “They were a major referral centre for pediatrics. They were also a maternity hospital where… they deliver the babies and dismiss them quickly so they don’t get killed.”
Dahman said Maaz was killed “in a cold blood way.”
He wants the Canadian public to know the humanitarian situation is going from bad to worse.
“They’re not just killing people in [the facilities]… but they’re indirectly killing the people by stripping them of their medical resources,” Dahman said.
With a file from The Associated Press
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