Here below, in 2 sections, we challenge the methodology, the sources and the allegations of the last report, focused on Aleppo’s events (July-December 2016), prepared by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI) (established on 22 August 2011 by the Hman Rights Council presented its last report, focused on Aleppo (see here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx).
See below for out detailed critiques to the COI methodology/sources and to three main COI allegations: Bombing of hospitals; Use of chlorine bombs; attack to a humanitarian convoy.
We, as an independent research group, have been monitoring COI’s work since 2012. We find that COI reports, which are the basis for resolutions by the Human Rights Council members, do not meet the standard of proof, besides the fact that the Commission ignores the causes of the conflict (the huge Nato/Gulf countries interference).
COI relies, as we show below, on biased sources echoing unverified allegations about facts whose features and perpetrators are not clear. Therefore it DOES NOT meet the standard of proof, and lacks of evidence, or is contradictory.
MAIN POINTS TO BE CHALLENGED IN THE COI REPORT
Project Truth against the wars
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Responses to the last (March 2017) United Nations «Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic»
COI Summary and conclusions and our critiques
COI summary: «As part of a strategy to force surrender, pro-Government forces encircled eastern Aleppo city in late July and trapped civilians without adequate food or medical supplies»
Conclusions COI. Point 95: «The siege simultaneously deprived civilians of freedom of movement and prevented basic commodities, including food and medical supplies, from entering the city. Widely used throughout the conflict, the use of this “surrender or starve” tactic by the pro-Government forces”»
Our remarks. The surrounded areas are those the armed groups, headed by Al Nusra had occupied. The areas were under the violent control of Al Nusra Front.. Anyway dring the months many humanitarian corridors were opened ansd many people left (in the years, 600.000 Easter Aleppeans went to West Aleppo. . But the armed groups made it difficult, using the “human shield tactic”. Also, they kepr for themselves the food and medicala id. That was what everybody told the media and NGOs after the evacuation. You can see the work of Jan Oberg work (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research- Sweden) from Aleppo. People spoke of years of hunger, summary executions, use of human shields (also COI points out).
COI Summary: « Syrian and Russian forces carried out daily air strikes, claiming hundreds of lives and reducing hospitals, schools and markets to rubble. Syrian forces also used chlorine bombs in residential areas, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties.».
COI conclusions. Point 96: « (…) the bombardments destroyed or otherwise rendered all hospitals in eastern Aleppo out of service by December. (…) suggests that pro-Government forces committed the war crimes of intentionally targeting protected objects, medical personnel and transport. ».
Our remarks. See our annexed research: Which hospitals, schools and bakeries were reduced to rubbles? The COI names in a confused way very few cases. The many hospitals allegedly hit (everyday there were news of this kind) either were invented by COI sources, without true evidence, or were hidden and not identified as helth centres (therefore one cannot speak of intentional bombardement), or were mixed with military positions in buildings looking like military positions, or were affected as collateral damages, or nobody can really say who attacked them.
COI summary: «Syrian forces also used chlorine bombs in residential areas, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties.».
COI conclusions. Point 98. «An alarming number of allegations of the use of chlorine were reported during the siege of eastern Aleppo ».
Our remarks: See a detailed challenge here: http://ciwclibya.org/images/ChallengetoChlorineclaims_13-03-2017.pdf
COI summary and conclusions point 97: «A humanitarian convoy was hit by an air strike, which killed 15 aid workers and destroyed much-needed aid supplies s»
Our answer: Seea detailed challenge here: http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.it/2017/01/aleppo-convoy-attack-un-report.html
COI (II): « The methodology employed by the Commission was based on best practices of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions. The present report was prepared on the basis of 291 interviews, including those conducted remotely with residents of Aleppo city and governorate, and interviews conducted in person in the region and in Geneva».
Our remarks. See the annexed text about the hospital. Has it happens since the first reports by the COI (end of 2011), the sources of the Commission – unnamed – are partial: in East Aleppo there were no international neutral organizations, and even them, and the int NGOs (not to say about the press) were reliyng on unverified informations from opposition sources, claiming to be in the field or not. The humanitarian organisations or activists from East Aleppo proven to benot impartial and unverified in thei news.
Coi report:: «The Commission collected, reviewed and analysed satellite imagery, photographs, videos and medical records. ».
Our answer. We cannot know all the material used by the COI, but the videos and photos that circulated in the past months (of course full of sufferings of children; always hiding the armed groups) and the satellite images make it very difficult to establish «who did what and why». COI witnesses (or self-appointed) cannot be reliable.
That is why according to us the standard of proof is not met by the COI.
(Focus) Attacks on civilian infrastructures
B 1. Point 28: «Government artillery fire reportedly struck an orphanage providing shelter for 50 children in Salah al-Din district, injuring two boys aged 11 and 14 years.».
Our answer: There is no evidence of this fact, nor of its culprits.
B. 2. «Airstrikes against hospitals». Points 29-40. COI says that day after day, hospitals, markets, water stations, schools and residential buildings were razed to the ground. By the time pro-Government forces recaptured the city in late December, no hospitals were left functioning. In the incidents investigated by the Commission, (..), there was no indication of the presence of military targets or of warnings being issued prior to attack.
Our answer: See the annexed document. In the annexed document we analyze the incidents related by the COI and their sources and “evidences” also on the light of the present hospital situation. COI could speak only of 2 hospitals attacked (M10 and Al Hakim). And with confused and contradictory versions. This is interesting, if we think that allover 2016, everyday there was a news of an hospital being reduced to rubbles.
B. 3. Food sources. «The total number of markets and bakeries attacked from the air during the period under review is indicative of a pattern from pro-Government forces of intentionally violating the right to food»
Our answer: Again no evidence, it is an old story, many times repeated since 2012 by partial sources.
B 5. Schools. Point 49. «On 19 August, at approximately 5 p.m., in Salah al-Din district, Syrian or Russian air strikes hit the Abdulqader Shasho school and an attached mosque »
Our answer: As COI says at point 48, schools may only be the object of attack when used for military purposes, and such attacks require prior warning when the school is located in a densely populated civilian area. It looks like this school was used for military purposes. Also, no evidences of a lack of prior warning.
FOCUS ON THE “BOMBING OF THE HOSPITALS”
Project Truth Against the Wars
email@example.com cell: 00393312053435 www.sibialiria.org
Response to the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic concerning the allegations about “attacking civilian infrastructures – hospitals” (points 30 to 40), the “establishment of a siege” and the “re-capture of Eastern Aleppo”
The sources and “evidence” used by the COI since 2011 can be shown to be questionable, lacking in proof and full of contradictions.
NB. We are even not referring to the unverified claims by the media.
MAIN POINTS CONCERNING THE COI ALLEGATIONS ON ATTACKS ON HOSPITALS
COI’S STATEMENTS ABOUT THE ATTACKS ON HOSPITALS ARE CONTRADICTORY (AND FINALLY ARE ABLE TO QUOTE ONLY 2 HOSPITALS…)
TODAY’S (FEBRUARY 2017) PHOTOS AND STORIES OF THE EAST ALEPPO HOSPITALS
CASE STUDIES OF EAST ALEPPO HOSPITALS “INVESTIGATED” BY THE COI
ALHAKIM, OR THE LAST PAEDIATRIC HOSPITAL
WHICH EVIDENCE IS PROVIDED BY THE VIDEOS?
OTHER WIDESPREAD ALLEGATION BY NGOS ABOUT THE HOSPITALS HIT, BUT WHICH ARE NOT MENTIONED AS DAMAGED BY THE COI. 1) THE “LARGEST GENERAL HOSPITAL”, 2) THE “TWO KEY SURGICAL HOSPITALS”, 3) OMAR IBN ABDEL AZIZ, 4) ZAHRA.
SO, WERE FUNCTIONING HOSPITALS DELIBERATELY TARGETED? BY WHOM? HOW MANY? WHERE WERE THEY LOCATED?WERE THOSE HOSPITALS ACTING AS HOSPITALS? WERE THOSE HOSPITALS REGISTERED AND CARRYING EMBLEM?
AL ZAHRA AND OMAR IBN ALDEL AZIZ. HOSPITALS WHICH COI DOES NOT MENTION AMONG THOSE HIT, BUT WHICH WERE MENTIONED ALL THE TIME BY MEDIA AND NGOs.
THE “SOURCE CHAIN” AND THE ULTIMATE SOURCE ON EAST ALEPPO: THE PRO-OPPOSITION ACTORS. A VICIOUS CERCLE
THE INTERESTIMG CASE OF AL QUDS…
MAIN POINTS CONCERNING THE COI ALLEGATIONS ON ATTACKS ON HOSPITALS
It seems, reading the COI report, relying the same allegations than several sources (see below), that Syrian and Russian aircrafts targeted basically hospitals and doctors. In a context where “the siege simultaneously deprived civilians of freedom of movement and prevented basic commodities” (as COI writes).
Which hospitals, schools and bakeries were reduced to rubbles? The COI names in a confused way very few cases (basically 2 only, concerning the hospitals). The many hospitals allegedly hit (everyday there were news of this kind) either were invented by COI sources, without true evidence, or were hidden and not identified as helth centres (therefore one cannot speak of intentional bombardement), or were mixed with military positions in buildings looking like military positions, or were affected as collateral damages, or nobody can really say who attacked them.
And concerning the context, the surrounded areas are those the armed groups, headed by Al Nusra had occupied. The areas were under the violent control of Al Nusra Front.. Anyway dring the months many humanitarian corridors were opened ansd many people left (in the years, 600.000 Easter Aleppeans went to West Aleppo. . But the armed groups made it difficult, using the “human shield tactic”. Also, they kepr for themselves the food and medicala id. That was what everybody told the media and NGOs after the evacuation. You can see the work of Jan Oberg work (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research- Sweden) from Aleppo. People spoke of years of hunger, summary executions, use of human shields (also COI points out.
COI report i salso full of totally unverified information, like: «Government artillery fire reportedly struck an orphanage providing shelter for 50 children in Salah al-Din district, injuring two boys aged 11 and 14 years.». There is no evidence of this fact, nor of its culprits
COI’S STATEMENTS ABOUT THE ATTACKS ON HOSPITALS ARE CONTRADICTORY (AND FINALLY ARE ABLE TO QUOTE ONLY 2 HOSPITALS…IN A CONFUSED WAY)
COI’s statement at point 29 says: “in December all hospitals were bombed out of service”. Then its narrative from point 29 till 40 is very confused.
But then the COI is able to quote only TWO hospitals allegedly hit by airstrikes: the M 10 and the Al Hakim pediatric hospital.We will talk specifically of these 2 cases later, but now it is important to say that: only two!
Indeed, at point 38, the COI report mentions other hospitals, but only to say that: “Between July and November, Syrian or Russian forces launched a series of airstrikes on a square in al Shaar district, where al Hakim pediatric hospital, al Zahra women’s hospital, al Bayan hospital and al Daqaq clinic and the central blood bank were located”. But according to the narrative, only Al Hakim hospital was hit, on July 23 and then on Sept 30, and Nov 16 and 18.
TODAY’S (FEBRUARY 2017) PHOTOS AND STORIES OF THE EAST ALEPPO HOSPITALS
According to some local medical workers (who work in the Western part of Aleppo), before the war there were in the rebel-held part of Aleppo three main public hospitals and 7 private hospitals.
The three public hospitals were: in a campus, in Qadi Akar built 10 years ago, there were the eye hospital, the pediatric hospital and the Watani national hospital plus 2 other buildings. None of them functioned as hospitals during the war because they were occupied by the Al Nusra Front, which used them as its headquarters, as a prison and a tribunal. They were therefore all legitimate targets and are now almost destroyed.
The seven private hospitals were active during the conflict, with some damage (mostly in the last phase). Here are the pictures of 5 of those structures, in February 2017: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ajp3ti8l3rh7dru/AACXmaAp-ZlUIkxVQv3w02qXa?dl=0
Al Daqaq. It is in good shape and its owner has given it to a charitable association inWest Aleppo, “Taalof“ which will open it for the people of the area. But here the White Helmets show a picture of a destroyed building saying it is Al Daqqaq… http://syriadirect.org/news/aleppo-hospitals-under-fire-doctors-%E2%80%98just-can%E2%80%99t-cope-anymore%E2%80%99/
Al Mashhad. In the Al Mashhad district there is a well-equipped hospital set up during the war. See the banner of the FADA (Free Aleppo Doctors Association). It is claimed that, before leaving, the opposition armed groups tried to destroy the equipment in this hospital. Al Mashhad is NOT mentioned by the COI.
Al Zahra (Fatme Al Zahra hospital) is still in good condition. SEE BELOW FOR THE NGO ALLEGATIONS, accepted at face value by the COI.
Omar ibn Abdel Aziz: founded by the Grand Mufti, this hospital is the most severelydamaged. Nevertheless, a man told a doctor that he was treated at this hospital in November. The damage may have occurred in the last phase of the battle in Aleppo. Months ago, the Aleppo Medical Association’ Bassem Hayak told a journalist that the top floors of the hospital were used by snipers.
Al Sakhour, also known as M 10 (see below for more details). This hospital is extensively dealt with in the COI report. It was near al Al Nusra base but does not appear badly damaged. Also, a recent video shows the hospitals rooms to be in good condition. https://www.facebook.com/pierrelecorf/posts/10155306250879925
Zarzour: located in Ansari-Sukhari neighborhood like the Al Quds. In February 2017, visitors from Western Aleppo found out that the hospital was burned by the armed groups the day before they were evacuated. Information confirmed by a high position responsible in the Syrian Red Crescent. On the side walk, hundreds of burned new blood bags Pictures here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ky5gt8itkf68hn4/AAAvf2OmrA7yFxObWYUZuo0ya?dl=0
Zarzour is NOT mentioned in the COI report.
Al Quds (see below for more details): This is the very famous MSF supported hospital, allegedly deliberately targeted on April 2016. A visit to the area in February https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ky5gt8itkf68hn4/AAAvf2OmrA7yFxObWYUZuo0ya?dl=0
shows three schools near a mosque destroyed by airstrikes (the local guide says the mosque was one of the headquarter of the rebels, one school was an ammunition depot and the other one was a rebel food depot. But the Al Quds hospital is the least-damaged building in the street. The video shows that the hospital building is lightly damaged and obviously did not receive a direct hit, the damage that it did sustain most likely being caused by bomb fragments.
CASE STUDIES OF EAST ALEPPO HOSPITALS ALLEGEDLY HIT
M10 HOSPITAL AND THE COI
M 10, along with the Al Hakim Pediatric, is the only hospital really named as an affected building. Affetced by multiple different causes…
The M 10 is the hospital al Sakhour.
COI 33-34-35-36-37: “On 28 Sept, an air strike hit the vicinity of the M10”; On 1 October, a series of barrel bombs struck the M10” (2 victims and 13 injured); “”further allegations regarding the use of chemicals are also supported by victims accounts; witnesses described a c20 meters-wide crater”; “On Oct. 3, the M10 – which was out of service – sustained further damage occasioned by a near-miss of an aerial bomb; a high esplosive munition hit the street of the hospital entrance; witness described a 20 meters-wide crater; three killed”; “on 14 October, multiple unitary high-explosive aerial bombs struck the entrance”.
The narrative is very confused, in regards to the number of victims, in the dynamics, and in the dates, reflecting a variety of contradictory sources. Also, the 20 meters crater is repeated 2 times.
Anyway the timing is is not consistent with what MSF wrote: received reports of attacks on nine health facilities around Aleppo in May, including six hospitals – one was the MSF-supported al Sakhour hospital in Aleppo city, which was forced to suspend activities after being bombed at least twice on consecutive days. https://www.msf.org.uk/country/syria
On 1 October, according to the manager of M 10, dr Abu Rajan, there were no victims (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37531630), but COI says 2 victims.
On 3 October, according to Aleppo Media Centre, in 3 October at least seven people died and more remain trapped under rubble (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/03/middleeast/syria-aleppo/). COI report says thre.
Back to 2014 (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61197-1/fulltext?rss%3Dyes) already “local doctors” were saying that M 10 – “one of the few remaining functional hospitals in the rebel-held area of Aleppo” – had been bombed, and it was victim of already so many attacks by government forces that the staff put the operating rooms underground. Doctors Without Borders reported that airstrikes had hit al-Sakhour hospital several times in a few days, forcing it to close.
Also, one wonders why COI ignored the allegations about M 2, another hospital allegedly hit on 28 Sept according to the HRW source, i.e. SAMS Syrian American Society (https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/03/un-demand-end-unlawful-aleppo-attacks). More than that, the Ngo points out: “The M2 and M10 hospitals, codenames used by local doctors to obscure the locations of the facilities (…)”.
The M2 location (if existing) was not disclosed, but the one of M 10, alias Al Sukhour, was known, as it was already existing before the was.
And Russian Defense Ministry official denied the Autumn 2016 attacks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BGQeYf2t6w&feature=youtu.be&t=295) and presented satellite photos taken on Sept. 24 and Oct. 11, claiming that "no changes to the facility can be observed" and that "this fact proves that all accusations of indiscriminate strikes voiced by some alleged eyewitnesses turn out to be mere fakes." Atlantic Council opposes this version http://www.publications.atlanticcouncil.org/breakingaleppo/hospital-attacks/
The 2017 field visits with videos, and the photos about the Al Sukhour hospital, alias M 10, are interesting.
See the pictures here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ajp3ti8l3rh7dru/AACXmaAp-ZlUIkxVQv3w02qXa?dl=0
The recent visit of the humanitarian worker Pierre Le Corf (video inside, since the minute 5: https://www.facebook.com/pierrelecorf/posts/10155306250879925) at Sukhour area, explains that
in Sakhour area, the M10 hospital was really very near a building run by Jabat al Nusra (but not the headquarters) and a White Helmets headquarters (not air bombed). But the hospital is standing: in a bad look because very near there were military positions – minute 6,11, but still there are beds, medecine stocks, a lot of medecines, doctor’s desk. And above the near-by mosque, a huge stock of medecines.
AL HAKIM, THE “LAST PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL”…
COI report 38 and 39: In Al Shaardistrict, the al Hakim pediatric hospital, the only children’s hospital in Eastern Aleppo, was hit by multiple airstrikes. On 23 July wirh a power cut and the death of 4 newborn babies in incubators. On 30 September, at least one airstrike hit the vicinity. On 16 November another airstrike partially destroyed the hospital and killed 27 people in the area. On 18 november, the hospital was struck again while patients of a suspected chlorine attack in another district were being treated. A double-trap was carried out within minutes”.
COI report explains also (point 38) that since 23 July, all hospitals in al Sahhar removed their emblems out of fear of being targeted. A stupid idea, because their location was already well known!
Russia denied any airstrike in the past 29 days.
“The Children’s Hospital was said to be supported by the IDA Independent Doctors Association and to have been running since 2013” (https://thesyriacampaign.org/release-eastern-aleppos-last-childrens-hospital-bombed-out-of-operation/) So, it was a new hospital, location unknown – therefore, impossible to say that if attacked, it was deliberately attacked.
We can see a lot of contradictions and lack of evidence among the NGOs and activists which are the COI source.
For instance, the IDA (Independent Doctor’s Association) wrote http://ida-org.com/index.php/2016/11/19/eastern-aleppos-last-childrens-hospital-ombed-out-of-operation/: “On Friday 18th Nov at 9:40am [local time] the last pediatric hospital in Eastern Aleppo was targeted with two missiles. The Children’s Hospital in eastern Aleppo is the only specialised pediatric facility left for a population of 275,000, 90,000 of which are children under 18”. The exaggeration in the numbers of the population still in Aleppo became evident at the time of the evacuation, a few weeks later.
IDA seems also to be confused also with the dates: in another article, http://ida-org.com/index.php/cause-posts/protect-doctors-and-hospitals/, they write: “IDA’s Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, the only specialised paediatrics hospital in the city, was hit 5 times in 2o16 until it was permanently put out of operation on November 14”: not 18…
Anyway, to our knowledge, NO pictures or videos of the structure of the destroyed hospital “partially destroyed” already in September, are made available by the “sources” quoted by the media and the NGOs: IDA, Aleppo Media Centre (AMC), White Helmets, doctors (like dr Hatem, trapped in the basement, quoted by IDA http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37998751). There are not pictures of people killed.
No pictures of the three floors allegedly destroyed (http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-multiple-direct-and-indirect-hits-hospitals-east-aleppo-last-48-hours)
On Al Jazeera, there was a video allegedly taken inside the hospital (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/air-strike-hits-children-hospital-syria-aleppo-161118163200380.html): “dramatic footage of attacks as babies are rescued from incubators and panicked staff”, after “an air raid has hit a children's hospital in Syria's rebel-held east Aleppo, forcing medical staff to evacuate patients, including several newborn babies still in incubators. The moment of the attack on Friday was captured by an Al Jazeera crew, including journalist Amro Halabi, who was reporting on survivors of previous Syrian and Russian bombing raids containing toxic materials”.
But an analysis of the video (http://www.lantidiplomatico.it/dettnews-nessuna_traccia_di_bombardamenti_sullospedale_pediatrico_di_aleppo_est/6119_17913/) shows well the inconsistancy of the “evidence”, and the contradictions in the video, which deserve to be studied. This was the one where we saw a nurse grabbing what was supposed to be a baby in an incubator, and then seemed to forget the baby while she embraced another nurse!
Another video, said to be taken by a Doctor showing a child allegedly injured by the chlorine attack with his father, seeking treatment in the Children’s Hospital (https://www.dropbox.com/s/r2cab93pt6npqda/Video%2018-11-2016%2C%2020%2044%2050.mp4?dl=0) does not show anything of the air attack to the hospital, nor is an evidence of the chlorine attack.
WHICH EVIDENCE IS PROVIDED BY THE VIDEOS?
The many videos made by field groups like White Helmets and Aleppo Media Center, show injured and dead people, destructions, the tragedy of the daily life in a battlefield, but don’t reveal anything about the cause of the tragedy: Airstrikes or mortars? Artillery or a blast?
Even the Al Jazeera filming inside the Paediatric hospital allegedly bombed by airstrikes 18 November, does not explain (see the chapter).
The COI trustes all the allegations about aerial bombings of the hospitals, allegations provided by the source chain we described.
To a request, also WHO refused to release the exact location of the hospitals and did not provide any photo or video material confirming that the facilities had come under airstrikes.
We sent questions to the 25 NGOs (working in Aleppo countryside, Idlib city and countryside, Hama Countryside, Homs city and countryside, Damascus countryside) who had written a very strong call for foreign interventio, obtained very general answers by Fadhi Aldhari. Q. Can you provide some videos of the bombing of hospitals? A. One of our facilities was targeted few years ago but do not have access to the photos.
OTHER WIDESPREAD ALLEGATIONS BY NGOS/MEDIA/ACTIVISTS ABOUT THE HOSPITALS HIT, BUT WHICH ARE NOT MENTIONED BY THE COI AS DAMAGED. 1) THE “LARGEST GENERAL HOSPITAL”, 2) THE “TWO KEY SURGICAL HOSPITALS”, 3) 12 UNNAMED HOSPITALS; 4) OMAR IBN ABDEL AZIZ, 5) Al ZAHRA.
COI report DOES NOT mention those allegations related by MSF, around 18 November (http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-multiple-direct-and-indirect-hits-hospitals-east-aleppo-last-48-hours): “(…) Three other hospitals [that] have also taken direct hits” in the same day according to MSF, resulting in casualties among staff and patients and leaving two key surgical hospitals and the largest general hospital out of service”. Where were those hospitals? What were their names? No pictures, no videos available.
COI does NOT mention those 12 unnamed hospitals allegedly hit around 18 November (http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/omar-bin-abdul-aziz-hospital-destroyed-eastern-aleppo-without-operating) according to the Canadian Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (Uossm), quoting sources like Health Directorate and “Turkey Health Cluster”: “In the past ten days alone at least 12 (always unnamed) hospitals and medical facilities have been attacked, two medical staff have been killed and 16 medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, have been injured”, and also that “Four hospitals were closed today in Aleppo after heavy airstrikes and bombings damaged the facilities leaving East Aleppo without any major operating hospitals”; and another (unnamed!) “hospital was attacked for the third time in three days putting it out of service.” COI seems not to turust those news…coming from the usual sources that COI trusts…
COI report does not mention the Omar ibn Abdul Aziz hospital. Apparently COI did not trust the many NGOs and “doctors” who stated many times about this hospital being hit and almost destroyed?
It started in July, a “doctor” on the phone from the field speaking about “barrel bombs” https://theintercept.com/2016/07/28/as-the-syrian-government-tightens-its-noose-aleppos-doctors-fear-the-worst/ (ith a photo of a bed with blood) : “Over the course of 45 days this summer in June and July, Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz was hit by at least three airstrikes”. “Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz has long been the only functioning medical facility in its pocket of eastern Aleppo City. According to the UN, the hospital has served an average of 5,500 outpatient consultations, 125 obstetric deliveries, 74 caesarean sections and 143 major surgeries per month”.
Also the Civil Defense (White Helmets) stated that Omar ibn Abdulaziz Hospital was hit first by a “regime barrel bomb”, and then by Russian airstrikes (http://syriadirect.org/news/%E2%80%98catastrophic-impact%E2%80%99-after-barrel-bombs-appear-to-target-aleppo-hospital/)
July 28: it is said that the hospital Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz was hit three times (https://theintercept.com/2016/07/28/as-the-syrian-government-tightens-its-noose-aleppos-doctors-fear-the-worst/).
Everything gets confused on nov. 18, where also the “last pediatric hospital Al Hakim” is hit. In this article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/aleppo-hospitals-knocked-out-airstrikes The it is not clear to understand if the Omar ibn Abdul Aziz was the “last operating hospital” hit…
At the same time we come to know fromk the Syrian Network for Human Rights (http://sn4hr.org/blog/2016/11/19/government-forces-targeted-omar-bin-abdul-aziz-makeshift-hospital-al-maadi-neighborhood-aleppo-city-november-18/)A : “government forces targeted Omar Bin Abdul Aziz makeshift hospital in Al Ma’adi neighborhood in Aleppo city”
Makeshift? But the hospital was already existing before the war!
Indeed the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun whose association had established the hospital said (http://www.strategic-culture.org/pview/2016/08/16/western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5-million-syrians-4000-doctors.html) that “Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz hospital had three operating rooms, an MRI, nine dialysis machines, 12 incubators, and 50 beds. It is now controlled by terrorists who further mounted machine guns on the hospital’s three ambulances. They are using it like a field hospital to treat terrorists. This is the hospital that we built with our own hands”. Therefore it look like if the hospital had become a mixed structure.
I asked MSF about it.
Question 1. Do you have today the evidences that hospitals already existing before the war (Al-Daqqaq, Al-Zahraa and Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital) were really damaged and/or hit by aerial bombings? MSF Answer (available by email): “All the 8 hospitals that at the beginning of the siege were functional in east Aleppo, all of them supported by MSF among other organisations, were severely damaged by the bombings during this period”. Not clear the names of the 8 MSF supported hospitals, and they are not in the COI list.
Question 2 to MSF: Do you have any evidence about the fact that the three hospitals (Al-Daqqaq, Al-Zahraa and Omar ibn Abdulaziz Hospital) were NOT occupied by armed men? “To our knowledge civilians were working in all our supported hospitals, but we are not in a position to confirm or deny if in any of the facilities have there ever been armed people, as those activities happened beyond the scope of action of MSF. The International Humanitarian Law ensures the protection of hospitals and, according to this, if fighters have proof that a hospital is being used with military purposes, they are meant to alert the other side before attacking.
Concerning Al Zahra hospital, COI report at point 38 just mentions Al Zahra hospital: “Between July and November, Syrian or Russian forces launched a series of air strikes on a square in al-Shaar district, where al-Hakim paediatric hospital, al-Zahra women’s hospital, al-Bayan hospital, al-Daqaq clinic and the central blood bank were located”. Adding: “Until this point, all hospitals in al-Shaar had been clearly marked, after which emblems were removed out of fear of being targeted”.
At the beginning of August, Human Rights Watch, always relying on local sources from East Aleppo, writes (https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/11/syria-government-airstrikes-closing-down-hospitals): “On July 23, 2016, airstrikes struck four clinics – al-Hakim Children’s Hospital (where according to the director Abu Yazan, 4 babies in incubators died because of the black out and of the dust), al-Daqaq Hospital, al-Zahra’ Hospital and al-Bayan hospital – and the Central Blood Bank in Aleppo’s al-Sha`ar densely populated neighborhood. All are clearly marked as hospitals”. HRW writes that all those structures were hit.
Always MSF refers (http://www.medicisenzafrontiere.it/notizie/news/aleppo-%E2%80%9Csiamo-sotto-attacco-ogni-giorno-vivere-%C3%A8-diventato-quasi-impossibile%E2%80%9D) that on July 23 and September 6, the Al Zahraa hospital was badly damaged by an aerial attack. In a link in the same article (http://www.medicisenzafrontiere.it/notizie/blog/%E2%80%9Cnon-possiamo-abbandonare-la-nostra-gente%E2%80%9D ), MSF explains that Al Zahraa was damaged, instead of July 23 and Sept 6, on…August 14th.
On August 5, WHO (relating to local sources) mentions Al Zahraa hospital (http://www.emro.who.int/eha/news/health-care-increasingly-out-of-reach-for-syrians-in-eastern-aleppo-city.html): “Following attacks on Al Quds hospital and Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz hospital in June and July, both facilities are now non-functional, Al-Zahraa hospital is now the only facility offering obstetric services in eastern Aleppo city, with 2 gynaecologists handling a caseload of 30–35 deliveries per day”. Indeed there is no mention of attacks to Al Zahra.
The pictures of a good-shaped Al Zahra in February 2017 are available (see before).
SO, WERE FUNCTIONING HOSPITALS DELIBERATELY TARGETED? BY WHOM? HOW MANY? WHERE WERE THEY LOCATED? WERE THOSE HOSPITALS ACTING AS HOSPITALS? WERE THOSE HOSPITALS REGISTERED AND CARRYING EMBLEMS?
COI REPORT: B. Attacks on civilian infrastructure 1. Impact on civilian life (from point 25 to 40, hospitals)
COI 25. In eastern Aleppo, pro-Government forces pummelled vital civilian infrastructure, with disastrous consequences. Day after day, hospitals, markets, water stations, schools and residential buildings were razed to the ground.
COI 30. By the time pro-Government forces recaptured the city in late December, no hospitals were left functioning. The majority of attacks were conducted in two waves: between late September and mid-October, and in mid-November. The attacks assessed below were carried out by either the Russian air force or the Syrian air force, or both.
MSF president at the UN Security Council stated in Sept 2016: “Stop bombing hospital stop bombing health workers, stop bombing patients. May attacks are brushed off as mistakes, committed in the fog of war. Let’s be clear: We reject the word mistake”.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oeBk5g5YWg
BUT WHAT HAPPENED TRULY?
Syria and Russia repeatedly denied deliberate attacks to civilian infrastructures.
The Russian side has often requested international organizations to provide data on the presence of any medical facilities and schools in terrorist-held territories in Syria but the organizations said they did not have information on the existence of any of such facilities. "We have repeatedly asked representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, other countries and international organizations to provide any information on the location of medical aid posts [‘hospitals’] or schools in Syrian areas controlled by terrorists," general Konashenkov said. "The answer is always the same — no one has such information" he said."There are only reports by the "White Helmets" or anonymous local "journalists" ("activists")," the spokesman said. http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/12/22/british-intelligence-agency-behind-white-helmets-lies-in-syria/
How many hospitals were hit in East Aleppo? Where are they?
According to MSF (answering a question), there were 8 hospitals that at the beginning of the siege were functional in east Aleppo, all of them supported by MSF among other organisations, were severely damaged by the bombings during this period.
According to the some doctors of the Aleppo Medical Association (interviewed last year in West Aleppo) before the war there were in the Eastern part of Aleppo three main public hospitals and 7 private hospitals. The three public hospitals never fonctioned during the war as hospitals because they were occupied by armed groups for military purposes. The seven hospitals were active at the time of the liberation, with some damages (see below).
But the COI sources put contradictory informations speaking of other hospitals or not naming them and ignoring the majority of the already existing hospitals.
During 2016, the news from NGOs and media about the bombardments of hospitals were frequent and contradictory in the numbers. Here (http://www.medicisenzafrontiere.it/notizie/blog/%E2%80%9Cnon-possiamo-abbandonare-la-nostra-gente%E2%80%9D) MSF says, in one point, that “since July only 8 hospitals are functioning, hit more than one time”; and in another point that “since July and August, 13 other hospitals – a part from Al Zahraa – were hit”.
But already in April, MSF Muskila Zancada said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4s9uEp6Ujs says:
“After Al Quds was hit, remain 2 hospitals providing medical care”
In October, a short summary of the contradictory accounts about the hospitals hit was put in this blog (http://angryarab.blogspot.it/2016/10/liz-sly-and-various-western-propaganda.html)
Hospitals used as military posts: mixed buildings
It looks like that in Eastern Aleppo there were a lot of health posts (may be also for civilians) but hidden in buildings of military posts. For the Geneva Conventions, forces occupying near densely populated areas must avoid locating military objectives near or in densely populated areas and endeavor to remove civilians from the vicinity of military objectives. Failure to do so would cause a higher civilian death toll resulting from bombardment by the attacking force and the defenders would be held responsible, even criminally liable, for these deaths.
According to a French humanitarian worker living in Western Aleppo and who spoke with a lot of people leaving from Eastern Aleppo to the Western side, and who since December is visiting the former war-thorn part of the city https://www.facebook.com/notes/pierre-le-corf/from-aleppo-open-letter-to-fran%C3%A7ois-hollande-president-of-the-french-republic/10154834279138828, “infrastructures, hospitals and schools were often used by these groups as headquarters along with prisons and warehouses to station weapons. In one of those schools. (…) In Eastern Aleppo, hospitals were mainly helping the fighters and their families, or those who were able to pay. After the liberation of Aleppo, I also saw the enormous amounts of drugs and medications that had been upheld along with two operative hospitals, even with their façade and some of their services partially damaged. These hospitals had been declared as entirely destroyed several times”.
An Italian journalist who spoke with many Eastern Aleppo people in January, states (http://www.lantidiplomatico.it/dettnews-fulvio_scaglione_il_diavolo_ad_aleppo_ha_le_sembianze_delle_petromonarchie_sunnite_e_delle_folli_campagne_democratiche/5496_18630/): “Apparently, according to the witnesses, several makeshift health centers were located in buildings where military post of jihadists were operating, with their weapons (missiles, machine guns). The fighters were hiding in civilian infrastructures. I dont know if this can absolve the strategy of Syrian and Russian armies, to eliminate the jihadists shelters, but this is the fact. WHen you fight in a city, crowded with civilians, human shields are used”.
Buildings with beds but also ammunition stocks were allegedly found after the departure of the armed groups from East Aleppo. http://www.pandoratv.it/?p=13524
Hospitals very near military posts, hit unintentionally and indirectly
The well-known Al Quds case (see below) seems to fall in this category: it may have suffered damage from a nearby strike but was not hit directly…many of the houses around showed more damage of artillery fire, shelling and many civilians told the visitor (after the armed groups left) that the armed groups had been firing mortars and shells at their homes during the liberation so its almost impossible to determine what is bombing and what is terrorist mortar, missile damage.
It appears it is the case also for the M10 (see below).
Who hit hospitals and civilians and in which situation?
The many videos made by field groups like White Helmets and Aleppo Media Center, show injured and dead people, destructions, the tragedy of the daily life in a battlefield, but don’t reveal anything about the cause of the tragedy: Airstrikes or mortars? Artillery or a blast?
Mortars and shellings may have kill the majority of people.
Invisible (or non-existant) hospitals. No GPS shared, no emblem…
MSF denounced the “deliberate” bombing of hospitals both in Yemen and in opposition areas in Syria. Same for the MSF Kunduz hospital in Afghanistan destroyed by US aircrafts (oct 2915).
But there are huge differences between the hospitals hit in Yemen and those said to be hit in opposition-controlled areas in Syria. This appears even from the MSF statements. The hospitals hit by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had distinctive signs showing that they were hospitals, and their were sent to the fighting parties. Indeed MSF said: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/yemen-airstrike-msf-supported-hospital-kills-least-11-wounds-least-19; and for the Abs hospital: http://www.msf.org/en/article/yemen-saudi-led-airstrike-abs-hospital-cannot-be-justified-unintentional-error.
To the contrary, it looks like that hospitals – makeshift – which were said to be hit in opposition-controlled areas in Syria, were hidden and not at all recognizable and their GPS were not communicated
The hidden status of many so-called hospitals in East Aleppo is stated also by the PHR report, already mentioned: “Since launching its military campaign in support of Syrian government forces, Russian aircraft have hit numerous civilian targets, including well over a dozen clearly-identifiable hospitals”. But the PHR lists in fact mainly “field hospitals”, which are NOT clearly identifiable. The methodology of PHR (https://s3.amazonaws.com/PHR_syria_map/methodology.pdf ) explain indeed that “A field hospital is an unofficial medical facility established to treat casualties on-site, ideally to stabilize patients so they can be safely transported to more permanent medical facilities. Field hospitals can be established in houses, basements, schools, mosques, or clinics, and are often unmarked for security reasons”. A crazy choice, to hide a hospital, in a battlefield.
Also ICRC (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Committee) answered after the Al Quds case (see below) “ICRC in Syria does not provide parties to a conflict with GPS coordinates for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Notification of GPS, and the use of emblems (or any other insignia for that matter), do not, in and of themselves, grant protection. Rather, the parties must take all precautions to identify that the target is lawful”.
How can an attack to an hospital which does not look like an hospital be “deliberate”?
THE “SOURCE CHAIN” AND THE ULTIMATE SOURCE ON EAST ALEPPO: THE PRO-OPPOSITION ACTORS. A VICIOUS CERCLE
In the post-Truth era, everyone is their own source…
Here we are questioning the sources of the allegations on indiscriminate and/or deliberate bombing of hospitals and civilians “by Russian and Syrian forces”. Both Russia and Assad's government have denied deliberately targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure during the war, which began in 2011 and was joined by Russia's air force in September 2015.
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AND ISTS SOURCE: FIELD GROUPS NGOS
On Nov 19 already, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that all hospitals in Syria's eastern Aleppo were out of service. The same statement came from the East Aleppo Health Directorate, which was in the hands of the armed groups. WHO not being in East Aleppo at that time, tits source was then the Directorate, and also the SAMS; WHO advised the journalists to contact SMS for clarifications.
Nov 19: The WHO has also been unable to identify the party responsible for the airstrikes, although it did confirm the existence of the hospitals under question. Jasarevic told RIA Novosti that the WHO has direct contact with five of the hospitals and employees at the medical facilities have confirmed that destruction did take place.
A regional office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Damascus confirmed that two hospitals west of Aleppo came under fire on November 14, however they were unable to confirm that the destruction of the facilities was caused by airstrikes.
But concerning the WHO and other international organizations, see the following. The Russian side has often requested international organizations to provide data on the presence of any medical facilities and schools in terrorist-held territories in Syria but the organizations said they did not have information on the existence of any of such facilities. "We have repeatedly asked representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, other countries and international organizations to provide any information on the location of medical aid posts [‘hospitals’] or schools in Syrian areas controlled by terrorists," general Konashenkov said. "The answer is always the same — no one has such information," he said."There are only reports by the "White Helmets" or anonymous local "journalists" ("activists")," the spokesman said. http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/12/22/british-intelligence-agency-behind-white-helmets-lies-in-syria/
MSF (DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS), WAS NOT PRESENT IN EASTERN ALEPPO…THEREFORE ITS SOURCES ARE LOCAL AND BIASED
MSF repeatedly stated the allegations: airstrikes on civilians both “deliberate” and “indiscriminate” http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-crisis-update-28-november-2016 MSF stated that it directly supported more than 100 health posts and field hospitals in Syria (not in government-controlled areas), and that these are mostly makeshift facilities with no MSF staff present. Therefore the information come from the field hospitals, not from MSF staff.
Médecins Sans Frontières on Nov 19th said East Aleppo’s hospitals had been hit by bombs in more than 30 separate attacks since the siege began in July and that he only specialised paediatric hospital in besieged east Aleppo has come under attack for the second time since airstrikes resumed on 15 November (http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-multiple-direct-and-indirect-hits-hospitals-east-aleppo-last-48-hours).
BUT it appears MSF had no independent access to verifiable information from Syria. None of MSF’s international doctors have been on the ground in Syria’s war zones since 2015. MSF’s sources, doctors and structures in East Aleppo are controlled by the opposition. MSF do not appear to have known as much as one might hope or expect about the doctors they supported in terrorist-held Aleppo and whose words they relay to the public.
To better see the nature of those hidden opposition-controlled hospitals, we can add that some of these structures give priority to the fighters and combatants (http://www.npr.org/2013/05/17/184845130/doctor-we-truly-are-failing-the-syrian-people)
Therefore what is the source for the MSF allegations (bombings of hospitals and so)? The opposition. https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/truth-a-casualty-neglected-by-medicins-sans-frontieres-msf-in-syria/
The reports – including allegations of government attacks on hospitals and civilians – come from people working with the permission and protection of such groups as Al Nusra, Isis and other foreign jihadis and mercenaries. These anti-government forces are known to exercise a rule of terror and to be not overly concerned about ordinary citizens’ access to medical attention. That is precisely why the MSF doctors withdrew from the areas under their control. So there is scope to ask who the medics on the ground were, and who they were treating.
MSF names its several disputable sources here (http://www.msf.org/sites/msf.org/files/al_quds_report.pdf): Forensic Office in the opposition-held part of Aleppo, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian Institute for Justice Syrian Human Rights Committee each of them “documenting recorded attacks” on civilian infrastructures and killing of civilians. And in October 2016, MSF stated http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-latest-attacks-east-aleppo-hospitals-leave-medical-care-tatters: “(…) at least 62 people died and 467 people, including 98 children, were wounded between 11 and 13 October, according to reports obtained from the Directorate of Health and the Forensic centre of East Aleppo. These casualty figures may be an underestimate”.
THE WHITE HELMETS (SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE)
In many cases the MSF source of the “information” (also videos) about the bombings appear to be the “rescue” group called White Helmets (naming themselves Syrian Civil Defense).
But who are the White Helmets? In this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aAaReVn2I4) and in these articles (http://misionverdad.com/COLUMNISTAS/al-qaeda-gana-su-primer-oscar; http://www.mintpressnews.com/ white-helmets-ngo-rescue- assist-operation-guise-human- rights/216324/) or here (http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/how-white-helmets-became-international-heroes-while-pushing-us-military) and here (http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/06/21/who-are-the-syria-white-helmets/) it is possible to find many reasons for not trusting this group, very near to extremist armed groups, and since longtime advocating for a no-fly zone to protest the rebels.
According to the observers who interviewed the residents of East Aleppo in December https://janoberg.exposure.co/aleppos-evil-humanitarians, none who had seen them or been assisted by them during these years of occupation
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH AND THEIR LOCAL SOURCES
On March 3, 2016, Amnesty international accuses (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/03/syrian-and-russian-forces-targeting-hospitals-as-a-strategy-of-war/Amnesty) that Russian and Syrian government forces appear to have deliberately and systematically targeted hospitals and other medical facilities over the last three months to pave the way for ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo. Their reports (with names of hospitals) cannot be verified because all those areas are in the hands of armed groups. Of course Amnesty’s field sources are agreed by the armed groups…
But the “compellign evidence are just the words of the medical workers and field NGOs belonging to the opposition: Amnesty International researchers spoke to medical workers from the six medical facilities and several humanitarian organizations in Turkey and Syria.
Human rights Watch too, takes the following sources (with phone interviews or meeting in Turkey) : doctors, hospital administrators, activists, journalists from the area, and photographers (https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/03/un-demand-end-unlawful-aleppo-attacks )
ALEPPO MEDIA CENTER (AMC)
Aleppo Media Center (AMC), one of the main and primary source of “news” on East Aleppo for the whole of the mainstream media outlets in the UK, US and Europe is a project supported by the pro-opposition Syrian Expatriates Organization SEO (http://syrian-expatriates.org/past-projects-highlights/development-support-committee); through the Syrian Media Incubator (Gaziantep, Turkey), AMC it receives funds from CFI, the cooperation agency of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Int Dev. http://www.cfi.fr/en/news/aleppo-media-center-set-launch-its-radio-station-northern-syria
The photographer of of the most famous AMC photos (the child Omran) is a man named Mahmoud Raslan a self-described “activist photojournalist” who, according to his own social media profiles and images, has been revealed as a fully-fledged terrorist sympathiser.
SYRIAN AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY (SAMS)
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a pro-opposition NGO made by Syrian doctors living in the USA and funded by USAID and other Western organizations. They claim, without showing evidence, that since the Syrian civil war began, about 13 hospitals and health facilities supported by SAMS were destroyed by the Syrian government (concerning the M10 and M2, the only ones that are named, see below) and they claimed more than one aerial attack per day to hospitals (http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hospital-aleppo-hit-third-time-month-syrian-government-1932518877).
AMS claims to be an apolitical, non-profit organisation founded by American medical professionals of Syrian descent. But they are completely aligned with the pro-opposition NGOs (see for instance the call by 25 international NGOs here http://ida-org.com/index.php/2016/12/15/aleppo-exposes-the-international-communitys-bankruptcy/) who never condemn the armed groups violence. A very critical piece on their former chairman can be found here:
http://journal-neo.org/2016/08/24/dead-children-the-syrian-american-medical-society-sams-and-its-friends/ In an interview, Zaher Sahloul, the former President of the Syrian American Medical Society advocates a no-fly zone in Syria. If Dr. Sahloul wanted to stop the killings he would question who stands behind this terrorism – the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – but he does not do so.
PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (PHR) AND THEIR SOURCES AND METHODOLOGY
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reports are also quoted as source by international NGOs (like Amnesty Int) and organisations and is likely to be another COI source. The group documented 336 attacks on medical facilities, with 697 personnel killed. Syrian government and allied forces are suspected of carrying out the vast majority of such attacks.
But let’s check the PHR sources and methodology. Leaving apart the fact that the PHR focuses only on damages in opposition-controlled area of Aleppo, ignoring the majority of Aleppo civilians, here they show that they rely on “field sources” – with phone interviews, or meetings in Turkey. For this report, for instance, https://s3.amazonaws.com/PHR_Reports/aleppo-abandoned.pdf, PHR explains: “The findings in this report are based primarily on interviews conducted by PHR in Gaziantep and Kilis, Turkey from July 22 to July 30, 2015. The research team conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 individuals providing health care, supporting the health care system, or documenting events in Aleppo (…) Due to security reasons, PHR will not identify the field sources and refers to them as medical field sources.”. None of the authors of the report has been in Aleppo.
To explain the quality of the “witnesses”, one can read here: “Field sources explain they are able to visually identify newer Russian aircraft as they are different colors and shapes than the older warplanes used by the Syrian government”. But Russian aircrafts operations are from high-altitude! (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-russia-idUSKCN1141VN)
THOSE “ALEPPO DOCTORS” SENDING A LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
If one checks at the names of those “Aleppo doctors” who wrote to Obama (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3010504-Aleppo-Doctors-Open-Letter-to-President-Obama.html#document/p1), asking to stop the bombings at medical centres, it is possible to see that the majority of their names are partial, no family name; and no hospital and working place is named. Also, many define themselves as “pediatricians”…but was’nt the last pediatrician killed in Al Quds, months ago? Indeed, it is admitted (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/11/last-doctors-aleppo-obama-help-stop-hospital-bombing) that “it has not been possible to verify the names of all the doctors listed in the letter”.
INDEPENDENT DOCTORS ASSOCIATION (IDA)
Independent Doctors Association defines itself as a Syrian medical organisation. Headquarters located in Gaziantep, Turkey and local offices in Syria are in Azaz district – eastern Aleppo city – Jarablus. It states that it works with The Syria Campaign, Save Our Syria, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. It is a pro-opposition group (see for instance the call by 25 international NGOs here http://ida-org.com/index.php/2016/12/15/aleppo-exposes-the-international-communitys-bankruptcy/) who never condemn the armed groups violence.
IDA works has likewise called for western action. They purport to have been running East Aleppo Children’s Hospital until November 18th when, they say, it was bombed (see below).
“FREE ALEPPO DIRECTORATE OF HEALTH”, SYRIAN OBSERVATORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS, “CENTRE FOR FORENSIC MEDECINE”, , “SYRIAN NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (SN4HR)”,
The so-called Free Directorate of Health in Eastern Aleppo, is in the hand of the opposition controlling this part of the city (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/war-children-eastern-aleppo). One can really question the impartiality of the source!
The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights (SOHR) run in London by Rami Abdul Rahman, who last time visited Syria 15 years ago, claims to have a wide network of contacts in the region who feed their information to the head office . The director says he knows some of the SOHR activists thourgh common friends.
SOHR is pro-opposition, like another “source” of allegations: the Centre for Forensic Health (https://www.msf.org.au/article/project-news/syria-latest-attacks-east-aleppo-hospitals-leave-medical-care-tatters).
From its side, the NGO UOSSM (Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux), a master in non-verified allegations: in December they bstaed to the media that pro government forces had burned alive in their houses many families, had executed near a cimitery 30 children, and kill everything that moves.
Then comes the “Syrian Network on Human Rights (http://sn4hr.org/), proudly explaining that among the agencies relying on SHHR reports, are United States government (http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/International_Agencies_that_Rely_on_the_Syrian_Network_for_Human_Rights.pdf). They indeed are member of the Coalition Responsibility to Protect, a manifesto for interventionists.
Same for the Syrian Violation Documentation Centre, a pro-opposition centre. According to its statistics, there are NO victims made by the armed opposition: http://vdc-sy.net/en/
THE INTERESTING CASE OF AL QUDS, AN INDICATOR FROM APRIL 2016 TILL DECEMBER 2016
COI report DOES NOT mention the notorious Al Quds hospital, allegedly hit before the ftimeframe covered by the COI research. Anyway the case is very interesting, also becuse of the huge international propaganda. We can resume it like this.
FIRST PHASE. Al-Quds hospital was a medical facility in the opposition-held Sukkari district of Aleppo supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), managed by a Dr. Hamza al-Khatib, who was still there in mid-December, 2016, just days before full government re-conquest. Al-Quds hospital was famously reported as “the main pediatric referral hospital in East Aleppo destroyed by government airstrikes” on the night of April 27, 2016 (http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-update-airstrike-al-quds-hospital). Afterwards the evidence became clear the building suffered no serious external damage, and was certainly not "reduced to rubble" as MSF initially claimed. Just how an alleged 55 people were killed remains unclear. (http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Al-Quds_Hospital,_Aleppo) Many other discrepancies in the report (http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/05/about-bias-and-propaganda-on-syria/).
(According to the allegations, in the bombing of Al Quds (April), the “last pediatrician” was killed in Aleppo. But in August 2016, we read that (http://www.emro.who.int/eha/news/health-care-increasingly-out-of-reach-for-syrians-in-eastern-aleppo-city.html), “Dr Hatem Abu Yazan, the general director of the Children’s Specialised Hospital in eastern Aleppo City, says that only 2 paediatric doctors are left in the city, each seeing 100–150 children per day, more than double the usual caseload”)
According to MSF, Al Quds hospital was started by doctors from Aleppo in November 2012 after the opposition had taken control over East Aleppo with the permission of the the Aleppo Local Council report.
The Al Quds was also supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); ICRC here https://www.icrc.org/en/document/syria-aleppo-brink-humanitarian-disaster said that the Al Quds was “completely destroyed”.
Both MSF and ICRC, under request (email available) admit that the hospital was not identified as a hospital and its GPS coordinates were not shared with the fighting parties.
SECOND PHASE. Apparently the “destruction” was an exaggeration, because according to the hospital’s founder, a 4 May 2016 statement by MSF said just that, noting the hospital would reopen two weeks after the bombing. Indeed Al Quds re-opened 20 days after the attack, and, in September, released a statement saying that it received 46 patients, allegedly victims of a chlorine attack, with the White Helmets providing a video showing coughing people (http://www.straitstimes.com/world/middle-east/syrian-govt-accused-of-chlorine-attack-in-aleppo).
THIRD PHASE. In September 2016, MSF felt the need to made a review on the attack to the Al Quds, always on the basis of their local sources (http://www.msf.org/sites/msf.org/files/al_quds_report.pdf) , particularly about its location NOT being shared with the warrying parties, and about hospital neutrality.
MSF explains that “From the outset of MSF’s relationship with Al Quds, the doctors characterized themselves as the doctors of the revolution". (…) even if Al Quds provided medical services to injured combatants, it would be well within their right and obligation under IHL to do so.To MSF’s knowledge, military affiliations have not emerged over the hospital’s four-year existence”.
MSF concludes that “Regardless of the potential intent, analysis of the evidence indicates that the bombardment on Al Quds hospital was an illegitimate attack on a functioning hospital”.
Some comments about the MSF report.
1- page 11: “From the outset of demonstrations in 2011, it was recounted that Ministry of Health facilities functioned as an extension of security forces”.
Not true. The ministry of health facilities in Aleppo functioned as medical facilities and have nothing to do with security forces.
2- page 18:” 15 It should be noted Al Quds hospital occupies approximately one-third of the building it inhabits. The building is not synonymous with the hospital, as it does not occupy the entirety of the structure”. If the hospital occupies one-third of the building only, what was the remaining two-third used for? It is recounted that military groups in East Aleppo shared the same buildings with medical facilities in a way to protect themselves from strikes.
3- page 34. “According to Al Quds staff, no military targets are located nearby the hospital”. “Hospital staff reported that it is common practice for armed groups not to occupy buildings close to hospitals because they expect to experience collateral damage from attacks.” If it is common practice for armed groups not to occupy buildings close to hospitals, how come that “until the end of 2015, an armed group occupied a building 500 meters west from the hospital. According to accounts, the group left the area out of concern for its vulnerability to attack because of its proximity to Al Quds hospital and, paradoxically, not the other way round. “What are the proofs that the armed groups left the building or did not come back or that there were no other groups nearby the hospital or in the remaining of the building?
4- All the arguments and facts of MSF are not based by the visits of its international staff on the ground (since they evacuated their staff at the end of 2014 following the kidnapping of a nurse) and therefore MSF is not an eye witness. All the facts are reported by Al Quds hospital staff and some organization such as SAMS. However, the hospital staff and SAMS are not neutral and not objective.
5- Finally, last but not the least. Concerning the statement that the attack on Al Quds was a deliberate attack on a hospital (although not stated clearly but the report is written in a way trying to convince us about that).
It is stated that:
“Al Quds was a widely recognized functioning hospital. At the time of attack, Al Quds had been a fully functioning hospital for three and a half years. Ambulances regularly transported patients to the hospital and an estimated 5,000 patients visited monthly. Because of the hospital’s regular activity, it is reasonable to expect that Al Quds’ medical identity over this extensive time period was generally known. MSF cannot prove if the Al Quds hospital location was known by the warring parties or not. However, MSF believes that the medical facility and its location were widely known”.
“However, it should be noted Al Quds was not formally identified as a hospital and its GPS coordinates were not facilitated to the parties in the conflict. MSF provides the GPS coordinates of its fully managed hospitals, but not those of supported facilities, as it is the choice of their independent management teams to do so or not. Notably, no MSF-supported medical facility in Syria has chosen to share its GPS coordinates with the warring parties because of a lack of trust in this protection mechanism. Rather, health facilities in Syria feel that facilitating their location will further expose them to attack”.
So, it is paradoxical to say that the identity and location of the hospital is well known (and thus implying that the attack was deliberate) and then saying that GPS coordinates were not provided to not expose the hospital to attack.
If the location of the hospital is well known, it is logical to provide the GPS coordinates, not to expose it to attack since the location is already know, but to protect it from attack (or at least to have an argument if the hospital is attacked)
FOURTH PHASE. THE VISIT TO THE AL QUDS ON FEB. 13TH.
Some Aleppo residents went to the Al Quds hospital on February 2017 ansd took pictures (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ky5gt8itkf68hn4/AAAvf2OmrA7yFxObWYUZuo0ya?dl=0). Here is their account: “Obviously, it is the most preserved building of the street. Obviously, it was not hit directly by bombs and probably received some fragments from bombs fallen on other building. I asked my guide if any restoration or repair were done. He said no.
The video that I took shows that the building of the hospital is the most intact, or the less damaged among the other buildings of the same street and obviously, the hospital did not receive a direct impact of a bomb.
My feeling is the following: Ain Jalout school (transformed in an ammunition depot by the armed groups) was the target of the strikes, the surrounding destroyed buildings were collateral damages and Al Quds hospital was not directly hit by strikes. We don’t agree with MSF conclusion that it was deliberate targeted”.
According to other visitors (in December), the Al Quds may have suffered damage from a nearby strike but was not hit directly…many of the houses showed more damage of artillery fire, shelling, so it is almost impossible to determine what is bombing and what is terrorist mortar, missile damage. Here is another video of entering Sukare which shows the artillery damage to the houses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3iOL7WYiI
The areas that are very clearly air-bombed are the industrial areas like Sheikh Najjar…where ISIS took root with Nusra etc..”.