Three people were killed and at least six wounded in an airstrike on a hospital in southern Syria run by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders.
MSF said on Tuesday that the attack hit the Tafas field hospital, located roughly 12km from the Jordanian border in Dara'a Governorate, on February 5. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike, though both the Syrian and Russian air forces have bombed the region in the past.
The attack partially destroyed the hospital and rendered its ambulance service inoperable. MSF said that "more than 20,000 people from Tafas town fled to the countryside," but it wasn't clear exactly when they fled or if it was a direct result of the hospital strike.
"I was on my way to the hospital to help admit people who had been injured by the airstrikes," said one staff member, whose testimony was published in a statement by MSF. "But as soon as I reached the hospital, I myself got injured. It all happened very quickly. I saw what looked like an explosion and then a flash of light, and then I lost consciousness for five minutes. My colleagues saw me lying on the ground, bleeding, and rushed me inside. I was injured in both my arm and leg by shrapnel."
Medical facilities have routinely been hit by airstrikes and shelling during Syria's near five year civil war. In a report released last November, researchers at the nonprofit organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented 329 attacks on medical sites in Syria since the start of the conflict, directly leading to the deaths of at least 687 medical personnel. The group blamed the Syrian government for 90 percent of those incidents.
Last December, a series of barrel-bomb attacks partially destroyed an MSF-supported hospital in the Homs Governorate, killing seven people. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have long been accused of routinely deploying the crude weapons in the course of the conflict.
After beginning its air campaign in Syria on September 30 of last year, the Russian air force has also been accused of hitting numerous hospitals and field clinics. According to the PHR report, Moscow's planes struck medical facilities at least 10 times in their first month of sorties.
Since the start of this year, at least 13 health facilities have been hit, "confirming that hospitals and clinics are no longer places where patients can recover in safety," MSF said on Tuesday. "Despite tireless calls by international organisations for an end to indiscriminate bombing, it appears to have become the new norm."
MSF-supported facilities have also been repeatedly hit in Yemen, which has endured its own civil war over the past year, and in Afghanistan, where at least 42 people were killed in what American officials called a mistaken strike in Kunduz.
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