Between three and eight civilians, including two children and a woman, were killed and between 11 and 22 others were injured in alleged regime or Russian strikes at Al Maghara Hospital in Al Atareb, Aleppo in the morning on March 21, 2021.
Syrian Civil Defense and other sources, including @HalabTodayTV, identified artillery shelling as the cause of the injuries and damage and France 24 reported that six shells struck the city while Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported about six rocket-propelled grenades and Syrian Network for Human Rights reported three mortar shells striking the hospital. According to DW News, dozens of rockets and heavy artillery shells struck Al Maghara Hospital. Syrian Archive reported the time of the incident from 8:41-8:45AM.
In a preliminary outcome reported by Syrian Civil Defense, “3 civilians, including a child and a woman…and 15 other medical personnel working at Al-Atareb City Hospital and the visitors were injured this morning.” Syrian Civil Defense later posted that the death toll ” increased to 5 civilians, including a child and a woman… and wounding 9 medical personnel (5 doctors and 3 Nurses and technicians) and in a later video, increased the count to seven people killed and more than 15 others injured, including nine hospital staff. France 24 news reported that six people were killed including a child and a hospital worker and 11 others were wounded. Baladi News reported 22 people injured to varying degrees. Reuters reported that “Syrian army artillery killed seven civilians and injured 14 medics” and that the Turkish Defence Ministry had earlier said that ” five people were killed and 10 injured” in the artillery attack. Syrian Network for Human Rights published a report a week later that identified “eight civilians [were killed], including one child and one woman, and injuring about 17 others, including five of the hospital’s medical staff. Other sources also identified between three to seven civilians killed.
A tweet by @anasanas84 and Facebook post by Zakariya Mohammed Zilo named those killed as Muhammad Abdel Hamid Haji Ahmed (male from Al Atareb), Hikmat Hussein Al Khalaf (male from Al Khalaf), Mustafa Ayoub (male from Al Atareb), Mustafa Ahmad Hallaq (male), Sami Ali Kaddour (from Abyanas), and Ahmed Khattab (from Kafr Nouran) as well as an unidentified male child and an unidentified woman. Syrian Archive also named Ahmed Abdel Qadir Ayoub, a child, as being killed. The director of the Free Aleppo Health Authority, Nawar Kurdiya, was injured in the eye as a result of artillery shelling. Mahmoud Khalifa, a maintenance technician at Al Atarib Surgical Hospital, was also injured in the attack.
Syrian Archive reported that Mohammed Abdul Hamid Haji Ahmed, who was only 18 years old and recently married, was killed while taking his mother, who was injured in the bombing, to the hospital for treatment. His daughter was born five days after he was killed in the hospital attack.
The Directorate of Education in Aleppo posted on Facebook that two of its teachers and one of its students were killed in the attack on Al Atarib. The student named by the directorate is Ahmed Abdullah Ayoub (known as Ahmed Rajab Hallaq) and the teachers named are Mustafa Ahmed Ayoub and Ahmed Khattab Khattab.
Images and videos posted by @IndyArabia and other sources show severe damage to the hospital and injured patients being removed on stretchers. France 24 reported that according the the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the courtyard and the entrance to the hospital were struck by shells. DW News reported that an AFR reporter witnessed damage to the hospital entrance, shells penetrating the roof, windows of the information room shattered, and blood stains spread around. According to The New Arab, in a statement by Fadi Hakim,a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the hospital, said the structural damage includes destruction of the orthopedic clinic and the emergency room and One News added that the electric generators on the roof of the hospital were knocked out. Syrian archive reported that “the first artillery shell hit near the hospital’s emergency room entrance and the other two shells followed hitting the orthopedic clinic and the waiting area in the hospital yard as well as the hospital roof near the obstetrician room and hospital staff accommodations.”
The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that the hospital is located far from residential areas and there is no military equipment. Al Jazeera and various other sources also pointed out that this occurred in a rebel-held part of Northwest Syria.
According to Syrian Civil Defense, the attack resulted in physical damage to the hospital so severe that the hospital could no longer serve patients. An Al Jazeera correspondent Adham Abu Al-Hussam pointed out that the hospital served more than 100,000 civilians in the city of Atarib and the surrounding areas but no longer can from the damage. Syrian Archive reported that the hospital conducts general as well orthopedic, urologic, and ENT operations and the average number of hospital beneficiaries ranges from 5,000 – 6,000 patients a month.
Following the attack, civil defense teams took the injured to the nearest hospital and transported those killed to their families. Baladi News reported that six of those injured were transferred to Turkish hospitals and the rest went to hospitals across the northern countryside of Idlib. Images posted by @MMCSYR also show the victims being buried.
France 24 and most other sources identified regime forces as responsible for the artillery shelling, including a post by Al Atareb City on Facebook that specifically identified the 46th regiment of the regime and DW News identifying the regime forces stationed in the town of Urem Al-Soghra as responsible. However, a tweet from @ZaitunAgency attributed the attack to both the regime and Russia. According to Syrian Archive, the 46th regiment is about 5km away from the hospital and could be the potential launch point.
Russian media posted a video following the attack showing Russian surveillance guided the artillery strike. Analysis by @Charles_Lister also shows that Russian “Kasnopol” laser-guided artillery shells were used in the attack. The missiles require external laser markers and the target must be illuminated with a laser for an accurate strike. By analyzing the remnants from the attack, they were able to point out that they closely match the laser-guided “Krasnopol” used in Ukraine. A tweet from @rien4djri also identified the times that Russian and regime planes get over Al Atarib, showing Russian involvement.
Anadolu Agency News attributed the attack to the regime and Iranian-backed foreign terrorist militias.
Anadolu Agency News and France 24 both pointed out that the shelling occurred in a UN de-escalation zone that was agreed upon by Turkey, Russia and Iran but the regime has recaptured three of the four areas covered by the deescalation. Al Jazeera also pointed out that the hospital is located underground, which is a tactic often used by the opposition to avoid targeting. Also, as Syrian Archive pointed out, “Al Atarib Surgical Hospital is remotely located, meaning it is situated distinctly separate from main centres of population and is not near to or surrounded by many other, unrelated (non-medical) structures.”
Rehana Zawar, the IRC’s country director for northwest Syria, said in a statement “Although SAMS shared the hospital’s coordinates through the UN’s notification system, it came under attack and has now been damaged so severely that it can no longer be used. Health facilities are protected under international law and should be safe havens in times of crisis, but after 10 years of war this is not the case in Syria.”
Aljazeera reported that the White Helmets released a statement that the attack is a “continuation of the regime and Russia’s systematic policy of targeting medical facilities and hospitals.”
The Turkish Defense Ministry released a written statement that “the Assad regime once again has carried out a brutal attack on innocent civilians” according to Daily Sabah.
The US Department of State also released a statement, “Reported artillery shelling on the Al-Atareb Surgical Hospital in western Aleppo killed several patients, including a child, and injured more than a dozen medical staff. This hospital’s coordinates had been shared with the UN-led deconfliction mechanism.”
The incident occured between 8:41 am and 8:45 am local time.