For Immediate Release

March 7, 2018

On March 5, 2018, the medical neutrality of a SAMS-supported hospital in Ma’arat al-Numan, Idlib was violated by armed groups. At approximately 11 am local time, armed clashes took place outside the hospital, and shortly after, members of an armed group entered the hospital, despite strong protests by the hospital staff, and temporarily took over the facility. The hospital staff, unwilling to compromise their humanitarian principles of medical neutrality, immediately began an evacuation of the facility in the face of this grave violation of international law. After several hours, the armed actors departed and the hospital staff was able to return and resume their work.

The recent escalation in violence between armed groups in Idlib province is leading to increasingly difficult conditions for health workers and their patients. Because of ongoing violations, hospital staff have experienced difficulty in reaching their patients. In addition, hospitals have often been caught in the crossfire between nearby armed skirmishes. In some cases, the hospitals have sustained significant damage, including catching on fire. On February 27th a woman was killed in these clashes while trying to reach one of our  facilities in Idlib countryside, while many patients couldn’t reach their treatment because of the hostilities, in addition to suspension of the work of several hospitals for hours or days due to the gunfire in the vicinity.   All of this is occurring while the medical staff bravely continue to treat their patients, including the critically ill and pregnant women.

“We strongly condemn the incursion of armed actors into medical facilities, which are protected under international law, and are grateful for the courage and bravery of our staff who refused to stand idly by while their rights and those of their patients were violated. These blatant violations of medical neutrality will result in the closure of the facility, which will regrettably cause an interruption of our services,” said SAMS Chairman, Dr. Amjad Rass.

SAMS stands in solidarity with our health workers of Idlib, and joins the Idlib Health Directorate in condemning the clashes which continue to take place in civilian areas. SAMS calls on all parties in Idlib to refrain from conducting military operations near hospitals and civilian areas. Medical facilities are protected under international law, and must be considered neutral at all times. It is innocent civilians who suffer when these laws are violated, the same civilians who are already suffering from constant aerial bombardment and frequent exposure to chemical agents.

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