UN humanitarian chief tells Russia to stop bombing Syrian hospitals
UNITED NATIONS – Russia on Thursday opposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to attacks on health facilities in Syria’s Idlib region, diplomats said after the latest meeting over violence in the country’s last major opposition bastion.
The outcome led to a rare statement following the meeting by the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock.
“The carnage must stop,” he said.
Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region of about three million people in northwest Syria, despite a deal to avert a massive government assault.
Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session, the latest of many they have sought since May in response to worsening fighting in Syria’s northwest.
The draft text, given to journalists, expressed “grave concern regarding the recent attacks on hospitals and other health facilities,” including a July 10 attack on Maarat National Hospital, one of the largest in the area and whose coordinates had been shared through the UN “deconfliction mechanism” that aims to spare civilian targets.
Russia again denied bombing such facilities.
“I provided information from my ministry of defence” and investigation demonstrated that there were “no attacks at nine out of eleven facilities” allegedly attacked, Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.
“The two others were partially damaged but not by Russian” forces, he said.
His British counterpart, Karen Pierce, seemed sceptical.
“There’s some interest in an investigation into the Maarat Hospital hit. So I think that’s the thing to focus on,” she said at the end of the meeting.
“We’ve got our suspicions. But let’s get a proper look into that and get a proper answer.”
Lowcock said after the meeting that since July 1, “at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed.
“Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied” because of air strikes, he said.
Syrian regime air strikes on Tuesday killed 11 civilians in Idlib’s south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The region is mainly administered by Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham but other jihadist and rebel groups are also present.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week strongly condemned air strikes in the region following reports from a Syrian doctors’ group that four health facilities including the Maarat al-Numan facility were hit during a single day of bombing.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.