The charity, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières or its French acronym MSF, said the hospital’s coordinates had been “regularly shared” with the coalition before the strikes. On Wednesday, MSF said the coordinates were last shared with coalition forces on Oct. 24, two days before the buildings were hit.
The loss of another hospital to destruction from the air is just one more instance in a disturbing month-long trend that has spanned multiple conflict zones.
Hospitals are protected areas under the International Law of Armed Conflict and are only viable military targets if the hospital is being used for a military objective. Even then, however, the facility must be given ample time to evacuate before it can be legally targeted.
In Syria, four hospitals have been bombed since Russian airstrikes began in the country on Sep. 30, according to international observers and news reports. Physicians for Human Rights, a group that tracks attacks on medical facilities and medical worker deaths in Syria, has recorded 313 attacks against medical facilities since the civil war began. According to the group, 283 of the attacks have been carried out by Syrian government forces.
The strikes hit hospitals in Al-Eis, Sarmin and Latamneh.
On Friday, advocacy group Human Rights Watch released a report stating that two possible Russian airstrikes in northern Homs on Oct. 15 killed 59 civilians, 33 of which were children. Human Rights Watch said the attacks were possibly unlawful and called on Russia to investigate the attacks.
While Russian aircraft have been pictured using precision guided munitions, the majority of the airstrikes carried out by Russian aircraft use “dumb” bombs. There have also been reported sittings of Russian cluster munitions. On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Russians’ use of “dumb” bombs for 85 to 90 percent of their strikes in Syria “increases the possibility” of more civilian casualties in the four-year old conflict.
In response to these claims, the Russian Deputy Minister of Defense, Anatoly Antonov, summoned the military attaches from a number of NATO countries to provide proof of their respective countries allegations that Russia is indeed targeting and bombing medical facilities — something if proven constitutes a war crime.
“If there is no evidence or official information refuting, the Russian Ministry of [Defense] would estimate such stovepiping as a part of information warfare against Russia,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a written statement posted online.
While Russia disputes international claims that its forces bombed hospitals, the United States has taken responsibility for bombing a hospital run by MSF in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has apologized and pledged a number of investigations into the Oct. 3 bombing, but it has yet to release any details about the circumstances that resulted in the death of 30 people, including 12 staff members and a number of patients. The attack, carried out for more than an hour by a heavily armed AC-130 gunship, burned out a large portion of the hospital — rendering it inoperable for the near future and causing MSF to evacuate the city altogether.
According to MSF, the hospital was one of the only trauma centers open to the public in northeastern Afghanistan. The group has requested an external investigation, as it believes the U.S. military is incapable of investigating itself, and has also accused the United States of war crimes for intentionally targeting a hospital, something the Pentagon denies.