The Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo city, destroyed by Russia and Assad regime airstrikes in spring 2016
Russia has ended its pretence of protecting hospitals and aid in opposition-held parts of Syria, while bombing and destroying medical facilities and civil defense centers.
Moscow has left the UN arrangement that sought protection for medics, rescuers, and aid workers, according to a UN note to aid groups.
Under the “deconfliction” system, the coordinates of UN-supported facilities and medical centers was shared with Russia to prevent bombing. Instead, Moscow used the information to attack as it enabled pro-Assad reoccupation of territory across Syria.
For months in 2016, Russia struck almost every hospital and medical facility in the east of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, killing thousands of civilians in its campaign. Eastern Aleppo finally surrendered to pro-Assad forces in December 2016, with tens of thousands of civilians forcibly displaced.
In spring 2018, the siege and bombing were repeated throughout the East Ghouta region near Damascus, devastating infrastructure including hospitals. The opposition capitulated on April 8, 2018, a day after chlorine attacks on the city of Douma that killed 43 people.
During the offensive against opposition-held northwest Syria between April 2019 and March 2020, Russia and the Assad regime struck more than 70 medical facilities, destroying or damaging more than half of the health provision in the area.
A Russian-Turkish agreement finally halted the assault on March 5, partitioning Idlib Province. The offensive killed about 2,000 civilians, wounded thousands, and displaced more than a million.
In April, a UN inquiry concluded that it was “highly probable” that pro-Assad forces bombed three health care facilities, a school, and a refuge for children in northwest Syria. However, the document avoided explicit identification of Russia.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its note, “On Tuesday, 23 June, the Russian Federation informed the United Nations that it would no longer participate in the humanitarian notification system.”
An OCHA spokeswoman confirmed the document.
The note stated, “The United Nations is concerned about the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the notification mechanism and is examining the implications of this decision for humanitarian personnel and operations in Syria.”
The UN said it will discuss the situation further with the Russians. It reminded all parties that they are bound by international humanitarian law.
The Kremlin has not publicly responded to OCHA’s summary.