David Miliband condemns hospital bombings and 'unspeakable humanitarian abuse' in Syria

Latest strike on International Rescue Committee hospital kills six people - including two children

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Monday 01 August 2016 15:29
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Airstrike on hospital in Jasim, Syria

David Miliband has condemned the international community's lack of action after an air strike on a hospital in southern Syria killed six people, including two children.

The former foreign secretary and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the hospital in Jassem, around 25 miles from the city of Daraa, was hit by an air raid on Sunday killing one member of staff and five patients.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme he condemned the lack of political pressure on the Syrian regime or Russia to stop committing alleged humanitarian abuses.

He said: “There is unspeakable humanitarian abuse going on across Syria at the moment and there is very little accountability for people committing these crimes.

“This is now not just a humanitarian catastrophe it has major political implications not just for the Middle East for also for Europe.

“Politics comes down to pressure and at the moment there is very little pressure on the Syrians, the Russians or frankly even the Iranians to curb the humanitarian abuse that is contributing to the conflict inside Syria.”

He said confidence in international checks and balances had been eroded so far that people caught in the middle of the Aleppo siege were refusing to leave the city because they feared being taken away by the regime “and never seen again” as happened following the fall of Homs in 2014.

He warned the siege of Aleppo could last “months if not years” according to information gathered on the ground by IRC staff.

In a statement to The Independent about the bombing, Mr Miliband said:”We are dismayed and in mourning today at well-founded reports of the loss of life of colleagues and civilians killed by an airstrike serving the needs of desperate people in a hospital in Daraa, southern Syria.

“These reports are a horrific reminder that civilians and aid workers are not just on the frontline of the Syrian civil war. They are bearing an intolerable price. The bombing of hospitals is never justified. All those involved must be held to account.

“It is right to have global attention on Aleppo, but it would be tragic if people came to believe Aleppo is the only crime scene in Syria. Across the country, aid workers and civilians are being targeted in a merciless way on a daily basis.

“The IRC has 2,000 staff on the front lines in Syria facing the brutality of a war without law and seemingly war without end. Peace talks come and go, and so do so-called ceasefires, but the reality is that there is talk of peace but deeds of war.”

He called on the UN to more to intervene and “act in defence of the most basic principles” of the organisation.

“It is not good enough to have monthly reports from the Secretary General about death and destruction”, he added.

The air strike came just three days after an attack on a maternity hospital in the rebel-controlled Idlib province where two were killed.

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