The first missile slammed into the field hospital in the rebel-held Syrian town of Sarmeen, killing a physiotherapist inside. Five minutes later, the aircraft returned, firing another missile that hit nearby just as the first responders were arriving. A total of 13 were killed, and the hospital organizers blamed Russian warplanes.
But these types of strikes on hospitals have brought little international outcry — a sharp contrast to an Oct. 3 American strike on a hospital in Afghanistan that killed 30 people and brought a firestorm of criticism on Washington.
While the US acknowledged relatively quickly that it carried out the strikes, Russia categorically denied it hit the Sarmeen hospital, which was struck Oct. 20.
The Syrian conflict has killed a quarter of a million people, producing a seemingly endless churn of death and devastation to viewers around the world. Hundreds of medical facilities have been destroyed throughout the war and 670 medical personnel have died since the start of the conflict in March 2011, according to Physicians for Human Rights.
Israel was criticized over the heavy civilian death toll during last year’s war, when over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including more than 1,400 civilians, according to the United Nations. Israel has said the civilian death toll was lower and blamed Hamas for civilian deaths, saying the group used schools, hospitals, mosques and residential areas as cover to stage attacks. The government often complains it is held to a double standard and comes under greater scrutiny than other nations.
Hirsh Goodman, an independent researcher on Israel’s strategic affairs, said the outcry against Israeli operations was a result of several factors, among them the increase of Muslims in Europe who are being more vocal against Israel.
Bahrain political analyst Ali Fakhro said the similar abuses happen in Syria, Yemen or Gaza but public opinion in the world is more “sensitive” about US actions “because the US committed many mistakes in the Arab region that can’t be forgotten easily, especially since it has a strong ties with Israel.”
Doctors Without Borders said there has been a significant increase on strikes on hospitals in northern Syria since late September — when the Russian campaign began — killing 35 Syrian patients and medical staff and wounding 73. In a statement Thursday, it said airstrikes have targeted twelve hospitals in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates throughout October, including six hospitals it supports.
The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs the hospital in Sarmeen, said it was Russian strikes that hit in and around the facility, as did activists on the ground. Many Syrians say they can distinguish Russian airstrikes from those by the Syrian military because they show signs of being more technologically advanced, with larger explosions and planes flying much higher in the sky.
Raghda Ghanoum, a 23-year-old Syrian in a volunteer first responders group, was among the first to arrive to Sarmeen from nearby Saraqeb after it was hit. “There were dead people on the ground,” she told The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying that as she spoke Russian warplanes were circling above.
“The Russians think every medical center is treating terrorists,” she added.
The Associated Press contributed to this article