Russia Bombs Syrian Hospitals
by Chris Mathews on Friday, February 26th, 2016
Over the past several months, Russia has been accused of bombing at least seven medical facilities in northwestern Syria, according to a recent article from The Guardian. The accusations, levied by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), coupled with Turkey’s foreign ministry’s condemning of such “obvious war crimes,” is yet another chapter in the increasingly strained relationship between Turkey and Russia.
According to The Guardian, the Russian airstrikes, which struck the Sarmin, Al-Eis, and Latamneh hospitals last October and the Maaret al-Nuuman and Azaz hospitals last week, are a continuation of the Assad regime’s 313 attacks on Turkish-backed rebel medical facilities since anti-government protests began in Syria in 2011. The most recent spate of Russian airstrikes, which claimed the lives of at least seven medical personnel and scores of patients, has brought the total number of attacks against medical facilities in Syria up to fourteen for the year, a pattern the Syrian rebels’ EU representative Zaidoun al-Zoabi has labelled as “systematic” and “cruel.”
Still, despite eye witness reports on the ground, Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has continually denied that Russia is “targeting civilians and civilian facilities in Syria” and continues to carry out airstrikes against the Turkish backed rebels, a fact that could potentially bring the tensions between Russia and Turkey, which have steadily risen since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, to a violent crescendo.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war 2011, Russia has continually supported the internationally recognized Assad regime with indirect military aid and political support due to a bond formed between the two during the Cold War, according to an article in Foreign Affairs. In contrast, Turkey, which, according to The New York Times, typically had friendly relations with Syria, began to train, support, advise the Free Syrian Army rebels due to the Assad regime’s violent crackdown on Syrian protesters in the Arab Spring of 2011. Though they supported rival parties, the support was, ultimately, clandestine and the public tension between was, as a result, minimal.
Since September, however, relations between Russia and Turkey have been steadily rising as a result of Russia’s direct military support for the Syrian government’s ground operations, according to Russia Today. These tension came to a direct boiling point when, on November 24th of last year, Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24—on its way to bomb Free Syrian Army positions—over what Turkey claimed was Turkish airspace, according to an article from BBC. Another article from the BBC stated that Russia, in response to the incident, levelled economic sanctions against Turkey which placed restrictions on Turkish imports and inhibited Turks from doing business with Russia. Neither side has made any attempt to ease the strained relationship between the two sovereign nations—with Turkey going so far as to call for a joint NATO ground operation against the Russian military backed Assad regime, according to The Daily Mail. NATO, however, and Germany in particular, countered that they “will not pay the price for a war started by Turks,” and it remains to be seen if Turkey will take further, direct, violent action against Russia and the Assad regime.
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