Russia 'bombed four hospitals in 12 hours' during air raids against Syria rebel forces: report

Russia 'bombed four hospitals in 12 hours' during air raids against Syria rebel forces: report
A newly-released report says that Russian pilots bombed four Syrian hospitals in the space of just 12 hours, despite the centres being on a UN deconfliction list.
3 min read
13 October, 2019
Russia is accused of carrying out hundreds of attacks on hospitals in Syria [Getty]
Russia bombed four hospitals in Syria in the space of 12 hours while carrying out raids against Syrian rebel forces, according to a New York Times investigation.

Using analysis of previously unpublished Russian Air Force radio recordings, plane spotter logs and witness accounts, the report says the evidence points toward Russia being behind strikes on four Syrian hospitals between May 5-6 this year.

The Russian Air Force radio transmission were reportedly obtained by a network of anonymous observers.

The report compares records from charities, the testimonies of witnesses and social media posts to provide approximate times for each strike. The logs from the dates in question allegedly place Russian aircraft above each one of the hospitals at the time when the bombings happened.

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Targeting hospitals is considered a war crime under international law, however Russia's position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has seemingly shielded it from prosecution. Moscow has also, along with Beijing, used its veto to block a Security Council resolution that would have referred several alleged Syria war crimes to court.

'Working' the targets

The first of the hospitals allegedly hit by the Russian warplanes was the Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital in southern Idlib province which served around 200,000 people.
Since opening in 2013, the centre had been struck at least three times, forcing it to move to an underground complex on farming land.

The Russian Air Force transmissions heard by the Times reportedly reveal a ground controller providing the coordinates of a location which correspond to the Nabad al Hayat hospital at 2:32pm on May 5.

Three minutes later, a pilot is heard saying he can see the target. The ground controller responds shortly after by giving the green light for the strike, according to the report.'

Read more: Syria shelling puts Idlib health facility out of service: charity

According to the report, the location of the Russian pilot is corroborated by a ground spotter's log.

The hospital, which had been evacuated three days earlier, was struck four times, according to a doctor who worked there.

In the same 12-hour span Russian warplanes also struck the Kafr Zita Cave Hospital and the al-Amal Orthopedic Hospital.

In many of the Russian Air Force transmissions, pilots can be heard confirming that they are "working" the targets at roughly the same time that the hospitals were struck.

The hospitals came under attack despite being included on a United Nations-sponsored deconfliction list to prevent attacks on them.


The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of committing numerous war crimes since resorting to force against Syrian opposition groups in 2011.

According to advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights, at least 583 such attacks have taken place against medical workers and centres since 2011. Almost half of that number - 266 - have taken place since Russia intervened to aid the Assad regime in 2015.

A UN investigation aimed at determining why hospitals on the deconfliction list were hit is still ongoing.

Syrian medical workers, however, say that pro-regime forces used the list as a way of identifying potential targets.