Possible War Crime: Syrian Maternity Hospital Bombed

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Possible War Crime: Syrian Maternity Hospital Bombed

'All such attacks must be investigated and those responsible for serious violations of the laws of war must be brought to justice'

  Supporters demand an end to the bombing of hospitals in Syria at a die-in to defend Syrian health professionals.  (Credit: Michael Hnatov/Physicians for Human Rights via flickr/cc)

This story may be updated.

A maternity hospital in Syria's northwestern, rebel-held province of Idlib was bombed on Friday, the U.K.-based charity Save the Children said. The number of casualties is unclear at this point.

According to human rights organization Amnesty International, it "appears to be part of a despicable pattern of unlawful attacks deliberately targeting medical facilities."

Save the Children posted the news of the strike on the hospital, which it supports, on Twitter, and included video footage of the aftermath:

According to reporting by Reuters, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the hit on the medical facility, as well as "a civil defense building."

"The bomb hit the entrance of the hospital, which sees 1,300 women monthly and carries out over 300 deliveries a month," Save the Children spokesperson Emma Pomfret said to CNN from London. Another spokesperson for the charity, Caroline Anning, told the Independent there were at least two casualties.

"Deliberate attacks on hospitals and medical facilities are serious violations of the laws of war and can never be justified. Hospitals, which have special protection under international humanitarian law, should be safe places for mothers, new-born infants, and medical workers—even in the midst of a brutal prolonged conflict," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty International.

Though it is not clear at this point who carried out the strike, Amnesty said in its press statement that it occurred "in an area under the control of armed groups where Syrian and Russian armed forces had been launching airstrikes."

"All such attacks must be investigated and those responsible for serious violations of the laws of war must be brought to justice," Luther added.

As Amnesty indicated in its statement, the bombing of the maternity hospital does not represent an isolated incident. As Physicians for Human Rights has documented, there have been hundreds of attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria since March 2011, the majority of which were (pdf) deliberate, targeted strikes.

The organization further notes

When medical workers are killed, the human toll is not just their lives, but also the exponential number of people who will suffer without treatment and the many lives that will be lost as a result. When these attacks on health care become as prolonged and widespread as they have in Syria, the consequences reach far beyond the individuals and facilities lost—the attacks reverberate across the civilian community, inciting fear that seeking medical treatment or going to a hospital will result in death, injury, kidnapping, torture, or imprisonment, both for the patient and the medical provider.

The hospital bombing comes just hours after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the U.S.-led coalition killed 28 civilians in a strike in the northern area of Manbij.

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