Since 1 December, MSF teams have distributed in different locations in rural northern Idlib province essential relief items to respond to the needs of newly displaced people who had fled the offensive conducted by the Syrian armed forces. © MSF

Syria: Indiscriminate attacks in Idlib

Indiscriminate attacks on civilians areas had predictably horrific consequences yesterday in Idlib governorate, Syria. Three hospitals near the frontlines that are supported by medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) received 185 wounded, and 18 patients who were dead-on-arrival.

“The horrific indiscriminate campaign of bombing and shelling yesterday can only conceivably have been conducted by the Government of Syria and its allies,” said MSF General Director, Meinie Nicolai. “We do not know how to make them stop indiscriminate attacks, and we do not know how to make them abide by International Humanitarian Law – the ‘Rules Of War’. We have called many times on the parties to the Syrian war, their allies, and the UN Security Council to do everything possible to bring an end to these violations. We make that call again, with the highest degree of urgency. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected, and our call to respect the rules of war applies as much to opposition groups and the Turkish forces as to the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia, the main military ally of the Syrian government.”

Through the afternoon and evening of February 25, bombs and shells struck areas with dense populations of displaced people in and around Idlib City and Mareet Misirin town. At least two schools and two kindergartens hosting displaced families were hit.

In an extraordinary evening and night of medical emergency, three MSF-supported hospitals in the area were inundated with urgent influxes of patients. One of the surgeons in Idlib Surgical Hospital told the MSF support team: “Some of the injuries were amputations, neurological injuries, and many other injuries. It was a hysterical situation in the city. Along with the sound of bombings and the sound of sirens, people had panic attacks. It was a difficult, bloody day.”

Two of the hospitals – Idlib Central and Mareet Misirin – have been able to provide initial breakdowns of the patient registers, revealing 66 patients with severe or critical wounds requiring major surgical operations. At least 14 of the severely wounded patients were children.

Both Idlib Central and Mareet Misirin hospitals also experienced near-miss bombing or shelling, with projectiles landing within 100 metres. Four medics working for Idlib Central Hospital sustained minor wounds from the blast.

“How many mothers need to hold their baby in their arms while bombs are falling everywhere? How many fathers need to reassure their children and make them laugh, while fire breaks out all around?” said Cristian Reynders, MSF Project Coordinator for northwestern Syria. “”There is one thing people in Idlib keep hoping for – to preserve human life. And their hopes are lowering by the minute, by the day.”

Indiscriminate bombing and shelling on civilian areas has become a hallmark of the Syrian war, and the Syrian government must undertake to abide by International Humanitarian Law and respect the rules of war.