- Claims Russia has bombed hospitals in Syria are serious accusations, and those making them must be held to account when they are proven false
- There is a long history of such false claims against the Syrian government and their vital use as a propaganda tool by the intervening foreign powers
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Or to put it another way – could anyone who bombs a hospital not be a barbarian?
The Geneva Conventions, which formalise common sense and morality into internationally accepted laws of civilised conduct, put it like this:
“The protection to which -- medical units -- are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after a due warning has been given – (but) has remained unheeded.”
In addition, article 25 of the 1923 Hague Rules of Air Warfare provides:
“In bombardment by aircraft, all necessary steps must be taken by the commander to spare as far as possible … hospitals and other places where the sick and wounded are collected, <em>provided such buildings, objects or places are not at the time used for military purposes. Such buildings, objects and places must by day be indicated by marks visible to aircraft …”
Since the early days of the war on Syria it has been claimed that the Syrian Army has been hitting hospitals and also intentionally targeting them. This simple claim, now being made against the Russian air-force operating in Syria is of enormous significance, - almost a distillation of the false narrative sold to the Western public that enables the violent insurgency to pass as a fight for freedom from ‘Assad’s Tyranny’.
Syria had a well-established and modern health service, with many public hospitals throughout the country – as might be expected in a socialist state. Not only was this service free for all Syrians, but many medicines and supplies were produced in Syria too.
When claims were first made by ‘activists’ and their Western partners that the Syrian army – or allied militia – had targeted hospitals, they were met with denials and disbelief. What reason would the government have to do this if the hospitals were performing their proper duties? The majority of Syrians at that time were not sympathetic to the armed struggle, even if they supported ‘the Opposition’, and many had also experienced the reality of this foreign sectarian insurgency. Many had relatives who had suffered kidnappings and extortion by the armed gangs, or knew ‘martyred’ soldiers whose funerals featured daily on Syrian television.
So when confronted with these claims – as for instance in a highly publicised Amnesty International report – most drew the obvious conclusion – that if the Syrian Army had targeted a hospital it was likely in pursuit of armed militants. Either these ‘rebels’ were using the hospital as a safe-house, or they were receiving medical care for injuries sustained in fighting state security forces.
Perhaps recognising that such exploitation of a hospital as a ‘human shield’ by militants would neutralise their claims against the Syrian government, Amnesty instead claimed that doctors were torturing patients, or reporting them to authorities because they had been involved in ‘protests’. There was little evidence this story was true, but like all the other stories coming from activists in Syria it settled into the Western public consciousness, ready to be rekindled with each new claim about the Syrian Army targeting hospitals.
The stories that should have settled into that consciousness never made it past the ‘cyber-curtain’ erected by the many agents of the Syrian regime change project. This screen cleverly took Western attention away from the many war-crimes committed by the mercenary army, either with disinformation or with diversionary tactics. The notorious Houla massacre, which was evidently staged to sabotage the imminent Kofi Annan peace plan is a good example. While Western leaders and media were outraged by pictures of bodies of 108 mostly women and children, allegedly murdered brutally by ‘Shabiha’ militias, the horrific truth was concealed. It was soon revealed that the bodies were those of unarmed supporters of the government, some of whom had been kidnapped from a hospital before being murdered and used in the ‘massacre’ videos.
Not only did the ‘barbarian’ invaders frequently use hospitals for shelter and sniper posts, they also stripped equipment for ‘export and sale’ in Turkey and blew up the buildings, sometimes spectacularly. While the destruction of the Al Kindi teaching hospital in Aleppo was reported in the West with suggestions the army was responsible, the foreign friends of the terrorist group actually behind the attack never shared its ‘mission video’. To an increasingly breathless commentary of ‘Allahu Akbar’, this chilling video follows a labouring truck loaded with explosives along a twisting road to its final destination – and detonation, followed by a massive fireball.
Much more recently a similar thing happened to the National State Hospital in Jisr al Shughour, when the Turkish/Saudi Army of Conquest was advancing toward Lattakia last May. While that hospital had been mostly evacuated of patients, there was still a group of staff and a brigade of Syrian Army soldiers there, some of whom died in the blast or subsequently trying to escape the Salafist attackers. The dramatic video of the truck-bomb detonation would surely have made it to Western TV news bulletins, had it been possible to present it as the work of the Syrian Army. But the story only reached Western eyes and ears months later when reputed correspondent Robert Fisk chanced on some of the survivors in a Lattakia hospital and told their stories.
Ironically perhaps, at this time when new and fabricated claims are being made about government attacks on hospitals, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies are finally re-gaining control of that territory, and what remains of the Jisr National Hospital.
But that’s not quite the end of the story of Syria’s hospitals.
Accusations of war-crimes made against any party should not be taken lightly, but this works both ways, as in litigation. If sufficient evidence cannot be found to support such a claim, then the accusers must themselves be held accountable. Western leaders and media may like to pretend otherwise – as if it is only a matter of finding the evidence to prove that Assad, or Putin, is responsible, but they are kidding themselves and us.
Not only is there no evidence that Syrian or Russian forces were responsible for last week’s claimed attacks on hospitals, but there is ample evidence to the contrary, that implicates both armed groups on the ground and foreign agencies and NGOs in staging or fabricating the ‘attacks on hospitals and schools’ in Aleppo province. (and as before, apparently in an attempt to derail any agreement in Geneva)
Despite constant denials of such collusion with the armed insurgency, Medecins Sans Frontieres openly admits that it has been ‘supporting’ dozens of ‘hospitals’ in rebel-held territory in the area for several years, although its own staff do not operate within Syria. This ‘support’ can only mean a well-organised system to smuggle medicines and supplies over the border from Turkey and can only exist under direct control of foreign-backed armed groups. It is ridiculous to imagine that treatment of injured fighters is not the prime function of such hospitals – or ‘field clinics’ as we would call them.
All such hospitals also fail the requirements of the international conventions and laws stated above, particularly on being identifiable. Claims that Russia had ‘intentionally targeted’ hospitals look a bit hollow when we have also been told these hospitals are hidden in order to avoid attack. (this is in sharp contrast to the case of the MSF hospital in Kunduz hit by US ‘friendly fire’, which was very clearly identified).
The Russian Ministry of Defence spokesperson, Maj General Igor Konashenkov has said that it is time for ‘NATO to stop playing games’, while releasing details of a secret US attack on buildings in Aleppo subsequently presented in Western media as ‘Russia strikes two hospitals in Aleppo’. Perhaps it is also time to start preparing a list of the war-crimes committed by mercenaries for NATO and its allies in Syria.
With the prospect of Syria finally regaining control of its borders and restoring the security of its citizens, something else has to happen. The foreign states and agencies who have been and are still directly responsible for fomenting and assisting the armed insurgency that has cost so much Syrian blood must now be held accountable. It is intolerable that these criminals can simply be allowed to slink away and lick their wounds, free to plot their next dirty scheme to seize control of others’ lives and resources.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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