On June 12, 2021, Al-Shifaa Pediatrics and Maternity Hospital in Afrin, Northwest Syria, one of the largest medical facilities in northern Syria, was hit by missiles. The horrific attack resulted in the tragic death of at least 13 people, including 4 humanitarian workers and the injury of 32 to civilians including women, children and 11 humanitarian workers, one of whom is currently in critical condition.
An earlier missile strike hit within 100 meters of the hospital, while the following two missiles completely destroyed the emergency, and the labor and delivery rooms. In addition, the outpatient department sustained significant damages, rendering the hospital out of service.
Al-Shifaa hospital is a vital health facility in Northwest Syria, providing a variety of primary and secondary healthcare services for the population of Afrin. On a monthly average, doctors and nurses at the Al-Shifaa hospital give roughly 15,000 medical consultations. The labor and delivery room of the maternal ward that was heavily damaged in the attack delivers about 350 newborns per month.
We are devastated by the loss of our colleagues and outraged by this indiscriminate attack, and other similar attacks targeting humanitarian facilities that provide life-saving services to thousands in need including women and children. Yet, Al-Shifaa Hospital, which is a deconflicted facility supported by international donors and UN funding, has suffered three attacks, the first of which was in 2019.
Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and the targeting of medical facilities are clear violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and constitute war crimes which must never be tolerated. Serious actions should be taken to ensure that civilians and humanitarian workers in Syria, and in conflict settings at large, are protected as outlined by UN Security Council resolution 2286, adopted in May 2016.
We call on the international community to take a stand against the attacks on civilian and humanitarian infrastructure in Northwest Syria, and on all parties to the conflict to join and consequently respect the humanitarian deconfliction mechanism to ensure protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. Also, we ask for immediate and impartial investigations to be conducted ensuring proper attribution or blame and accountability for all the perpetrators.
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