Swiss ‘shocked’ at targeting of hospitals

An image taken on October 27 and released by MSF of the aftermath of an airstrike on a hospital in Saada province in Yemen. A Saudi ambassador denied the Saudi-led coalition was responsible. Keystone

The Swiss foreign ministry has expressed its ‘shock’ at the recent military attacks against hospitals in war zones, while carefully sidestepping who is to blame. In recent months, bombs and airstrikes have reportedly destroyed hospitals in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. 

This content was published on October 29, 2015 - 16:46 with agencies

“The Swiss foreign ministry is shocked about the number of recent attacks on hospitals in war zones and expresses its sympathy to the victims and affected organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday, without explicitly naming affected countries. 

On October 27, MSF said airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen had destroyed a small hospital it runs in the northern province of Saada, although there were no deaths and only one injury. The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations later denied the charges. 

The international medical charity has faced a number of other strikes in recent weeks. On October 3, US gunships bombed an MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. The death toll, originally reported to be at least 22, has now risen to “at least 30”, MSF said in a statement on October 24. US forces in Afghanistan said the hospital was bombed by mistake after Afghan forces requested an air strike, and President Barack Obama apologized. 

On Thursday, MSF said there had also been an escalation in deaths from airstrike attacks on hospitals in Syria in the last month - roughly the same period Russia began its air campaign in the war-torn country. The group said in a statement that 35 Syrian patients and medical staff had died and 72 had been wounded in the attacks in northern Syria's provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and the central provinces of Hama.  The aid group said 12 hospitals have been targeted in attacks, including six it supports. The attacks have caused five hospitals to shut down.

The Swiss foreign ministry said attacks on medical facilities severely hindered the delivery of urgent medical humanitarian aid. It urged warring parties to strictly abide by international humanitarian law, which forbids attacks on medical facilities, and to properly protect civilian populations.

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