Last cardiologist in Syria's Hama province killed in bombing

Last cardiologist in Syria's Hama province killed in bombing
Dr Hasan al-Araj was Hama's only surviving heart specialist. His car was 'targeted' by aircraft operating over the hospital in the rebel-held territory.
2 min read
14 April, 2016
Dr Hasan treated patients - rich and poor - for free at his hospital [SAMS]

The only cardiologist working in Syria's Hama province was killed in an air raid on Wednesday morning, the latest killing of a medical professional by regime-linked aircraft.

Dr Hasan al-Araj was travelling in a rebel-held area of Hama when his car was hit by a missile outside his hospital. Activists believe it was launched by a Russian jet and amounts to a targeted assassination.

The hospital building, just 100 metres from Araj was killed, remained untouched, leading to the Syrian American Medical Society - of which he was a director - to say they believe the 46-year-old heart specialist was deliberately targeted.

Araj was on his way to interview potential medics and ambulance for his SAMS emergency response team when he was hit by the air-to-surface missile. His death will undoubtedly be a tragic blow for medical staff working in the province.

The cardiologist treated poor and displaced Syrians for free at his clinic, named "The Cave", including the victims of chemical attacks and regime bombing.

"Dr Hasan [was] a civil society leader [and] helped organise the civic council in his hometown, creating a prosperous community. This small town with its limited resources, hosted thousands of internally displaced Syrians," said Dr Ahmad Tarakji, president of the Syrian American Medical Society.

"He donated his hospital to serve the community free of charge. A leader, a doctor, and a friend, SAMS mourns the loss of this exemplary physician who dedicated his life to helping others."

International protection for doctors, nurses and patients was Syria's most urgent need, he said.

"The way that people are looking at the conflict is from a political perspective, not from a humanitarian side. The thing I would ask right now is that the world acts in order to protect patients, like with underground hospitals. We need protection."

Protesters in rebel-held Aleppo held a vigil for the deaths of Araj and another doctor recently kidnapped and tortured to death by the regime. They also called for an end to attacks on medical professionals.

Syria's medical community operating in rebel-held territories has been targeted throughout the war by regime snipers, snatch squads and aircraft.

Medicins Sans Frontiers, which operates in Syria, stopped giving its GPS coordinates to Russia and the Syrian regime after its medical facilities were repeatedly targeted by warplanes and surface-to-surface missiles. 

Staff believed the hospitals could have been deliberately attacked, while other medical facilities, schools and bakeries in rebel territories have been frequently hit by bombers throughout the six-year war.