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Hospitals under 'unprecedented' attack in war zones: MSF

Medical facilities, such as this maternity hospital which was bombed on July 28, 2016, have been targeted for attack since the beginning of the conflict in Syria
Save The Children/AFP/File
MSF recorded 77 attacks against medical facilities in Yemen and Syria over the past year

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has hit out at the "unprecedented" number of attacks on medical facilities in Syria and Yemen, a year after the deadly bombing of its hospital in Afghanistan killed 42 people. 

Monday marks the first anniversary of the US strike on the trauma center in Kunduz, which triggered global outrage and forced President Barack Obama to make a rare apology on behalf of the US military still deployed in war-torn Afghanistan.

"Over the past year, we recorded 77 attacks against medical facilities operated or supported by MSF in Syria and Yemen: this is unprecedented," Meinie Nicolai, MSF president, told reporters in Kabul.

"Hospitals are now part of the battlefield," she added.

Najim Rahim (AFP/File)

MSF has said the raid on the hospital in Kunduz last October by a AC-130 gunship lasted nearly an hour and left patients burning in their beds with some victims decapitated and suffering traumatic amputations.

The organisation has branded it a war crime. However, an investigation by the US military earlier this year concluded that the troops targeted the facility by mistake and decided they would not face war crimes charges.

MSF had called repeatedly called for an independent international inquiry.

In a speech before the United Nations Security Council last week, the organization's International President, Dr Joanne Liu said "Many attacks are brushed off as mistakes, committed in the fog of war. We reject the word ‘mistake’."

"On May 3rd, you pledged to protect the medical mission," she continued. "Five months later, the resolution has plainly failed to produce any effect on the ground."

"With the bombs continuing to fall, the doctors tell us they await their own deaths," she said, adding "There can be no more waiting."


The charity spoke out as condemnation grew over the bombing of hospitals in the rebel-held east of the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been under attack by the regime and its ally Russia. 

"Health facilities and staff are targeted in Yemen and Syria ... most often in the name of war against terrorism," Nicolai said. 

"In Syria, attacks against medical centers for civilians and against ambulances are systematic." 

She added: "As of today, we are not back yet in Kunduz. We have left northern Yemen. We struggle to give support to the people in Syria."

Guilhem Molinie, MSF country representative in Afghanistan, said he had access to 700 of the 3,000 pages of the US report on Kunduz -- the rest were classified.

AFP

"The US forces, operating in Kunduz on that date, assumed that self-defense was allowing them to attack," he said.

"The entire city of Kunduz was judged as hostile. This is extremely shocking for us which means that everybody in the city on the date was assumed to be hostile."

The organization published a detailed report into bombings on two MSF run and supported hospitals in Yemen, carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.  The attacks saw a combined total of 20 people killed and another 32 injured.

"The details of the incidents documented in these two reports are unambiguous indicators of how war is being waged in Yemen, where there is an utter disregard for civilian life by all warring parties," MSF says in the report.

(Staff with AFP)

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