Russia faces grilling by UN over bombed Syria hospitals

Russia faces grilling by UN over bombed Syria hospitals
The UN cannot guarantee that hospitals in rebel-held Idlib, which have shared their coordinates under a UN deconfliction system, will be protected from Russian and regime airstrikes.
2 min read
26 June, 2019
Syrian Civil Defence attempt to clear debris as they search following an air strike [AFP/Getty]
The UN aid chief said on Tuesday he had asked Russia to explain how it uses data on the location of Syrian hospitals and clinics following a string of attacks on health facilities.

Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council he was "not sure" hospitals that share coordinates of their location under a UN deconfliction system will be protected.

More than 23 hospitals have been hit by strikes since Russia-backed Syrian forces launched an offensive in the rebel-controlled Idlib region in late April, according to the UN.

On June 20, an ambulance transporting an injured woman in southern Idlib was hit, killing the woman and three medical workers. 

"I have written to the Russian Federation to request information as to how the details provided through the deconfliction mechanism are used," Lowcock told the council.

Russia, which backs Syrian forces in their offensive in the northwest, has firmly denied that the bombing campaign has targeted hospitals in the jihadist-controlled Idlib region.

Doctors in Idlib province have said they will stop sharing coordinates of hospitals and clinics with the United Nations after medical facilities were systematically targeted by the Assad regime and Russia.

Moscow maintains that the military operation is aimed at driving out "terrorists" from the region, which is covered by a de-escalation agreement reached last year between Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate which is on the UN terror list, controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

Since late April, more than 460 civilians have been killed in government or Russian bombardment in the area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The violence has forced around 330,000 people to flee their homes and hit 23 health centres, the United Nations says.

The war in Syria, now in its ninth year, has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab