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More than 500 attacks on health sites in Syria since 2016 (WHO)

US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — More than 500 military attacks on healthcare facilities have been reported in Syria since 2016, causing almost as many deaths among medical personnel as patients, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday.

About two-thirds of those affected were in north-western Syria, where fighting has intensified in recent months in response to an offensive in December by Russian-backed Bashar al-Assad troops seeking to seize the last bastion still in the hands of the rebellion.

Rebel support Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire last week in the Syrian province of Idlib and the truce has been generally respected for the time being.

Data compiled by WHO since 2016 and published for the first time shows that 494 attacks have been committed against health facilities in Syria in three years.

Nine new attacks have been recorded since the beginning of the year and all of them occurred in north-western Syria, leaving 10 dead, the UN agency based in Geneva said, without citing those responsible for the attack.

In total, some 480 people, medical staff and patients combined, have succumbed to these attacks since 2016.

“What is troubling is that we have come to a point where attacks on the medical profession – something the international community should not tolerate – have now become commonplace,” said Richard Brennan, regional emergency director at WHO.

Only half of the medical facilities in northwestern Syria are still functioning, he added, while the Syrian offensive has displaced nearly a million people.

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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.