Russia quits UN system aimed at protecting hospitals, aid in Syria

Jun 26, 2020

Russia has quit a United Nations arrangement that aimed to protect hospitals and humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria from being hit by the warring parties, according to a UN note to aid groups seen on Thursday.

The Russian move comes after an internal UN inquiry in April found it was “highly probable” that the Syrian regime or its allies carried out attacks on three healthcare facilities, a school and a refuge for children in northwest Syria last year.

A crackdown by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to a revolution against the regime, which resulted in Assad effectively declaring war on those who opposed him, resulting nine years later in over half the population being dispossessed and hundreds of thousands killed or imprisoned. Russia has provided military support for Syria in the conflict.

Russia and Assad’s regime have claimed their forces are not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and have questioned the multiple sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks.

Under the UN deconfliction arrangement, the locations of UN supported facilities and other humanitarian sites like hospitals and health centers had been shared with all parties in a bid to protect them. However, many Syrians have noted that the Syrian regime and its allies used this knowledge to target hospitals, with the United Nations questioning whether it made them a target.

"On Tuesday, 23 June, the Russian Federation informed the United Nations that it would no longer participate in the humanitarian notification system," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the note.

"The United Nations is concerned about the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the notification mechanism and is examining the implications of this decision for humanitarian personnel and operations in Syria," the UN note added.

The United Nations said it would discuss the situation further with Russia.

In the note it said all parties to the conflict - whether they participated in the voluntary deconfliction arrangement or not - were still bound by international humanitarian law.

- Reuters and agencies
Photo: One of the hospitals in Idlib bombed by Russian and regime warplanes