Syrian doctor killed in Russian shelling of Kharkiv hospital

Syrian doctor killed in Russian shelling of Kharkiv hospital
The first recorded death of a Syrian citizen in Ukraine echoes that of Russia's bombardment of Syria, where nearly 1,000 medical staff have lost their lives.
2 min read
06 March, 2022
Intense shelling of civilian areas has wreaked havoc in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine [Getty]

A Syrian doctor has been killed by Russian strikes on the city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine on Thursday, according to the Syrian women's activist group Masawa. 

The report marks the first of a Syrian citizen losing their life in Ukraine and comes amid intense shelling of civilian areas in the predominantly Russian-speaking city, which remains under Ukrainian control. 

Dr Leila Ahmed was working at Kharkiv regional hospital when mortar rounds hit the building she was working in, the report said.

Dr Ahmed had moved to Kharkiv with her Syrian husband, who was outside the hospital at the time and survived the attack, local reports said.

Dr Ahmed was a gynaecologist originally from Deir Ez-zor, Syria’s second largest province which has been ravaged by years of civil war. 

Mahoush Sheikhi, a resident of Qamishli in northern Syria, reacted to her death on Facebook, saying: "Death follows us wherever we go - as if it was a Syrian speciality. Peace be upon the soul of this doctor."

Regime support 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is standing in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, calling Vladimir Putin's actions a "correction of history" in the Russian President on 28 February. 

Damascus remains a staunch ally of Moscow after Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war helped turn the tide against Syrian rebel forces in favour of Bashar. Russia launched a campaign of airstrikes in late 2015 to support Assad’s ailing ground troops. 

Russian mercenaries have also appeared across Syria alongside regime forces, including in deadly clashes in Dr Ahmed’s home province of Deir Ezzor. 

Over 950 Syrian doctors were killed during the first decade of civil war, according to NGO Physicians for Human Rights - who recorded at least 266 deadly attacks on medical facilities since Russia entered Syrian civil war. 

The Russian air force had long been accused of deliberately targeting hospitals in civilian areas across Syria, casting a foreboding shadow over the escalating conflict in densely populated areas of Ukraine.