Syrian government likely behind attack on Afrin hospital: Rights group
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Russia and the Syrian government were behind attacks on the al-Shifaa hospital in Afrin on June 12 and July 25 that killed over a dozen civilians, a report by the human rights organization Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) said on Wednesday.
On 12 June 2021, at approximately 7:00 PM Syria local time, several artillery rockets struck al-Shifaa Hospital in the city of Afrin, controlled by Turkey and allied Syrian opposition armed groups of the Syrian National Army (SNA).
The attack resulted in 15 deaths and 40 injuries, including staff, as well as devastating damage to the hospital and surrounding buildings.
The Turkish government immediately blamed the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the attack.
However, the SDF and the SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi denied involvement in the attack.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of innocent life,” SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi tweeted at the time. We condemn the attack without reservation. Targeting hospitals is a violation of international law.”
Relying on visual evidence and testimonies from witnesses, survivors, and medical staff, the investigation analyzed the conflicting accounts of events and played out multiple eventualities to identify the perpetrator, the STJ said.
However, due to the limited amount of evidence available, STJ could not definitively identify the perpetrator responsible for the al-Shifaa Hospital attack on June 12, 2021.
Nevertheless, after thoroughly investigating evidence of the case, STJ’s team of researchers concluded “that the Syrian regime and, indirectly, Russia are the most likely culprits of the hospital attack."
The report said evidence shows that the weapon used, a BM-21, “most frequently deployed by regime forces, supplied throughout the war with new stocks of rockets by Russia.”
“Furthermore, the targeting of civilian medical infrastructure, whether a hospital or emergency response center, is a tactic commonly employed by the regime and its Russian allies over the course of the war,” the report said.
The report said further that the launch site of the rockets was in close proximity to one of the main Russian Military Police bases in the area. “It seems like a reasonable assumption that an attack like this, risking escalation, would require the consent of the Russians nearby,” the report added.
The report concluded that an assessment of the possible motivations of actors also suggests that Syrian regime forces are likely responsible.
“Turkish and/or opposition shelling earlier in June killed one regime soldier and reportedly wounded others stationed in al-Shahbaa region.”
The report shows that although Turkey blames the YPG and SDF for attacks, other actors have been involved in such attacks on Afrin.
Last week, the Public Security Service of Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib province announced that it arrested the cell which detonated the booby-trapped car in Afrin city on October 11, that left at least nine people dead, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
Turkey again blamed the attack on the YPG, which is not present in Idlib.
Afrin has been controlled by Turkey-backed factions since March 2018 when the Turkish army launched a cross-border offensive to target the YPG, which was then administering the area since 2012. Since then Afrin has been plagued by regular bomb and rocket attacks.