After reports throughout the last month that Russian airstrikes have hit multiple Syrian hospitals, the Russian Defense Ministry is denying the existence of most of the hospitals, according to Russian state-owned Sputnik News. Russian officials said Monday that the reports by Western media of bombed hospitals were made “without any proof.”
"I would like to remind you that a week ago, several leading Western media outlets citing the U.S.-based Syrian American Medical Society accused us of allegedly bombing hospitals in al-Ees, al-Hader, Khan Tuman, Sarmin, Latamna and al-Zirba," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters. "We investigated this information. It turned out, in fact, that there is a hospital only in the settlement of Sarmin. There are no hospitals in al-Ees, al-Hader, Khan Tuman, Latamna and al-Zirba, and, consequently, there are no healthcare workers," he added.
The Russian Defense Ministry provided Russian news outlets with aerial photos of what it said was the completely intact hospital in Sarmin, Syria, which was reportedly bombed last Tuesday. The attack killed at least 12 people, according to the Guardian, which cited the hospital’s director as saying the facility would not longer be able to serve patients.
When the attack occurred last week, at least four hospitals had been reportedly bombed since late September when Russia began launching attacks in Syria ostensibly aimed at Islamic State group fighters. Sputnik News reported Saturday that medical staff from the group Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, did not know who was responsible for bombings at its hospitals.
— MSF International (@MSF) October 29, 2015
"It is difficult to determine who is responsible for the airstrikes that led to the destruction of the hospitals," said Dounia Dekhili, the MSF program manager for Syria, according to Sputnik News. “We were not witnesses, so we cannot be precise on that."
Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he did not have any direct knowledge of who was behind attacks on hospitals in Syria.
“We’ve seen these reports as well, but in the absence of any firsthand information coming from our teams on the ground, I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations,” Stillhart said. “In addition to providing large scale humanitarian assistance, our teams on the ground are also monitoring the conduct of hostilities and use of force. And in case we have concerns, we will share them directly in a bilateral and confidential dialogue with the relevant party.”
Despite these questions, media outlets in the U.S. and other Western countries have reported on videos of attacks from groups such as the Syrian-American Medical Society, which has said strikes on Syrian hospitals were launched by Russian warplanes.
These attacks come after the U.S. was widely criticized for an attack on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Oct. 3. That attack killed at least 22 people and prompted an apology from U.S. officials as well as several international investigations into the incident.