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The United Nations asks Russia to justify itself about the bombing of hospitals in Syria

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Steve Briggs

Steve is an accomplished writer and journalist with an interest in military affairs around the world. Previously he was a contributor to the AFJ (Armed Forces Journal - armedforcesjournal.com). Outside of his normal work, he enjoys playing FPS games and paintball.

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Steve Briggs

Escaping control of the Syrian regime, the province of Idleb, largely led by the jihadist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has been the target of frequent air raids since the end of April. According to figures provided by the United Nations, at least 23 hospitals and one ambulance have been affected.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, medical centers have been regularly targeted during the fighting. Thus, 329 cases were recorded between March 2011 and November 2015 by the NGO Physicians for Human Rights, which, three years ago, accused the Syrian regime of deliberately targeting hospitals.

During the fighting for the control of the city of Aleppo, in 2016, more bombings of hospitals were reported. And their deliberateness could hardly be doubted because of their frequency. And Russia, militarily present in Syria since September 2015, was arrested.

“I call on Russia to take responsibility. The bombing of hospitals are war crimes, will Russia accept responsibility for such unbearable acts?” said Jean-Marc Ayrault, then French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in October 2016.

At the time, Moscow had refuted any responsibility for the bombing of hospitals. “We formally reject such statements that we do not accept […] People who make such statements are each time unable to prove them,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin.

Three years later, therefore, hospitals were again targeted in Idleb Province as their contact details were communicated to Russian and Syrian forces to prevent their possible bombing. Hence the explanations requested by the British Sir Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

“I’m not sure that giving their contact details has protected these hospitals,” Lowcock told the UN Security Council at a meeting dedicated to the situation in Syria. “The big question is what do the people who receive the location data from the medical infrastructure do? I wrote to Russia to find out how the information is being used,” he said.

Russian General Alexey Bakin, the head of the “Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Belligerents” did not fail to react to the words of the head of the UN. “We categorically deny all these assumptions that government forces would indiscriminately hit Idleb. We regret that anti-Syrian NGOs spread false information, thus deceiving the international community and effectively protecting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s terrorists,” he said.

Only the objectivity of the Russian general has been called into question by Fran├žois Delattre, the representative of France at the UN. “The Russian Center for Reconciliation is neither a humanitarian actor nor a UN agency, it is an offshoot of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which is an active part of the conflict,” he said.

“Our delegation has never questioned the proposed speakers,” said Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN. “If the delegations wish to embark on this game, we are ready to play in the future,” he added.

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