Even a 2-day-old baby in a pediatric hospital is not safe in Aleppo.
A relative calm in the northern Syrian city on Saturday night was shattered by airstrikes that targeted hospitals. Government forces have been bombarding the city lately, and their helicopters allegedly dropped the missiles.
One of them, the Children’s Hospital, is run by a Syrian organization called the Independent Doctors Association (IDA). It released a statement saying that the bombing cut off the oxygen supply to a room where babies were being cared for and that one died. The hospital had been struck once earlier in the night, but a second hit did worse damage. A video posted by IDA shows the aftermath of the first strike.
“The situation is so bad. The hospital is greatly damaged and this is not the first time. We are really tired,” the hospital’s head nurse was quoted as saying, apparently while cradling the newly born, newly departed infant boy. “After the second strike, we had to move him downstairs to the bomb shelter, and that’s why he died.”
A total of four hospitals were reported to have been bombed on Saturday night, as well as the city’s central blood bank. All are said to be out of commission.
The IDA statement said its specialized hospital for children wouldn’t reopen until it can be assured of its protection. Given Syria’s recent history, that would be a surprising development. Government forces have targeted health-care providers for years, destroying hundreds of hospitals and killing hundreds of doctors, nurses and patients.
A World Health Organization report this year documented the killings of more than 1,000 people in attacks around the world aimed at health-care providers. Almost 40 percent of those were in Syria.
Aleppo is presently under siege-like conditions. The city, once Syria’s most populous, is divided between government forces and anti-government militias. Recent gains by government forces have shut off the last supply routes for food to rebel-controlled areas, stoking fears of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Government forces have been bolstered by robust air support from the Russians.
Marianne Gasser, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that the hospital strikes filled her with “overwhelming despair.”
“I think about the people who died, and keep dying, again and again. I think about the patients and their families. I feel for the doctors who want to help but can’t anymore,” she said.
The grinding civil war has brutally uprooted civilians. Millions have fled the country. Half of the population has been displaced. The exact number of civilian dead varies, but at least 280,000 Syrians have been killed, though other credible estimates go as high as almost half a million.
On Tuesday, a suspected U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed dozens of civilians just north of the city of Manbij, not far from Aleppo. The U.S. military says it is investigating those claims, though it has stopped publishing the results of those probes.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Max Bearak