Researchers have implored the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the global humanitarian community to “do more to protect the sacred space of medical neutrality in conflict and bring harsher punishments to perpetrators of violence against healthcare in Syria”.
The call to action comes as new research published in BMJ Global Health finds ambulances have been intentionally and repeatedly targeted throughout the Syrian conflict "as part of a war strategy".
Researchers examined literature on attacks against ambulances in Syria from 2011 to 2018. They found that between 2016 to 2017 alone, there were 204 individual attacks involving 243 ambulances. Almost half of these were either heavily damaged or put out of service. According to the research, the main perpetrators were the Syrian regime (60%) and the Russian armed forces (29%).
The researchers say the “intentional, highly destructive and repetitive” targeting of ambulances has had a devastating impact. “As the most dangerous place in the world to be a healthcare provider, no cadre of health worker or health facility is immune to the attacks,” they add.
It said while monitoring of such attacks is difficult, it is necessary to ensure they do not become normalised as "usual wartime tactics".