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MSF: Syrian Regime Used Chemical Weapons in Hama | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People carry a stretcher amid debris after a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders was hit near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria’s northern province of Idlib. (AFP)

Beirut – Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accused the Syrian regime and its allies of using chemical weapons in their bombardment of the Hama governorate on March 25.

MSF reported that the “regime targeted Latamneh hospital in the northern Hama governorate, killing two people and causing severe respiratory symptoms among patients and staff.” The hospital’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Darwish, was one of two people killed. Thirteen people were transferred to other facilities for treatment.

It reported that at around 6:00 pm on March 25, the Latamneh hospital was targeted by a bomb dropped by a helicopter, which hit the entrance of the building.

The organization relied in its report on information from the hospital staff that proved that chemical weapons were used. Patients and staff reported “suffering severe respiratory symptoms and burning of mucous membranes—symptoms consistent with an attack using chemicals.”

The hospital went out of service for three days due to the attack, after which the emergency room reopened.

The hospital is located a few miles from the frontlines and provides medical care for around 8,000 people.

Prior to the attacks, the hospital had an emergency room and inpatient department, and provided general and orthopedic surgery.

Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF’s head of mission in northern Syria, said that the loss of Dr. Darwish leaves just two orthopedic surgeons for a population of around 120,000.

“Bombing hospitals, although banned by International Humanitarian Law, remains a common practice in Syria, and health services are severely affected by these repeated attacks,” he added.

Over the past year, MSF has received reports of at least 71 attacks on 32 different health facilities, which it runs or supports in Syria.

On February 22, an MSF-supported health facility in Idlib governorate was hit by rockets, killing six and wounding 33 others.

Meanwhile, “Al-Nasr Army” announced that the Hama battle “will continue, and the retreat of rebels from several locations does not mean they have been defeated.”

Battles continued between the regime forces and opposition factions on all fronts in Hama, coinciding with dozens of air raids by Russian and Syrian war planes.

“Al-Nasr Army” military spokesperson Lieutenant Iyad al-Homsi said: “The criminal gangs resorted to chemical weapons when they were no longer able to defeat us in the battlefield.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he added: “Those who witness the number of deaths of regime forces and its affiliated militias will realize that victory is ours. We have proven to the world that after six years of killing, destruction and displacement that our revolution will continue.”

Head of the Hama Media center, Abu Yazan al-Noiami said that the retreat of rebel forces and the consequent advances of the regime over the past two days were caused by the regime’s use of chemical gases.

He added that both the regime and Iranian forces are resorting to media blackouts to hide the “very high figures of their losses.”

He stressed: “Hundreds of Iranian militants were killed and over 30 tanks, personnel vehicles and cannons were destroyed in this battle.”

In a new development, 17 armed factions in coastal regions, Aleppo, Hama and Idlib announced that they agreed to form a comprehensive military operations room aimed at fighting the Syrian regime and restoring stability in the region.

Opposition website, “al-Durrar al-Shamiyyah”, reported an “informed source” as saying that factions of “al-Jabha al-Shamiyyah”, “al-Sham Legion”, “Mujahideen Army”, “al-Nasr Army”, “Idlib Army”, “Freedom Brigade”, “the Middle Company” and many others are part of this operations room.

According to the source, Colonel Fadlullah Naji, of the “al-Sham Legion”, will head the room, adding that during the last month and a half, the troops had been meeting to agree on all details, which he did not disclose.

He said that the final meeting will be held in the coming few days to present the framework of the room, after which it will be officially announced.