Abo El Ezz
May 4, 2016
Syrian or Russian jets bombed Al Quds hospital, in the eastern part of the
divided city of Aleppo. At least 50 people lost their lives, and some 80 more
killed in the attack was my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Muhammad Wassim
Mo’az, a kind man who cared deeply for his patients and his community. He slept
in the hospital in case there was an emergency and he had to rush to treat
babies and children. He was the last paediatrician in Aleppo.
friend, Dr. Mohammed Ahmad, was also killed in the airstrikes. Dr. Ahmad was
beloved by colleagues and Aleppo residents. He used to volunteer with children,
teaching them how to prevent dental disease during wartime. He was one of the
10 dentists remaining in eastern Aleppo.
and Dr. Ahmad join hundreds of my Syrian colleagues who have been killed during
the last five years of civil war. Physicians for Human Rights has counted at
least 730 murdered medical professionals. Deliberate attacks on hospitals and
medical workers have become the norm. Just one day after the bombing of Al Quds
hospital, a primary care center that treated more than 2,000 people a month was
destroyed by another airstrike. In the last week, schools, clinics and mosques
have been deliberately bombed, too.
As one of
the few remaining doctors in Syria, I have watched the “cessation of
hostilities” that was agreed on in February crumble. Imperfect though it was,
it offered Syrian civilians a brief respite from five years of violence. People
had begun to recover during the truce, to get their lives back. But we are now
seeing a level of destruction that will leave an already battered city in
It is hard
to describe what it is like to live in Aleppo, waiting for death. Some people
even pray for its swift arrival to take them away from this burning city. The
bombardment has reached such ferocity that even the stones are catching fire.
This week I helped bury a man whose body was so charred that no one could
overhead vie to be the next to strike. Their targets are not fighters, but
civilians — mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters whose luck
has run out. That is what we live on now, luck. Everyone is terrified and we
feel abandoned and alone.
nurses are trying our best to put on a brave face for our patients. We know
that for the community we serve we represent a last hope, the final defenders
of life in this city. But we are also among the fallen. We have all lost
medical brothers and sisters to barrel bombs and missile strikes, but we keep
on working through the night. We have seen neighbors and friends die in front
of us. We are exhausted, and there are not many of us left, but we continue our
20-hour shifts. What is most heartbreaking is when we have to choose which
patients to save because there aren’t enough doctors to treat everyone. Our
hospitals, though they are the targets of bombs, still overflow with the sick
once the universal sanctity of medical neutrality has been eviscerated. This
war has set fire to what were long-held agreements on human rights,
humanitarian principles and humanitarian law.
running out of coffins to bury our friends, family and colleagues. At some
point the shelling will kill everything and there will be no life left in
Aleppo. Trapped, people are losing any sense of hope. Our time is running out,
and the need for action is urgent.
Just a few
months ago, Russia, the United States and other global leaders made what they
said was a firm commitment to a truce. They are now failing to meet that
commitment, and Aleppo’s women, children and elderly are paying the greatest
price. Syrian government and Russian airstrikes are aiming at the places where
civilians gather most, as well as the roads allowing humanitarian assistance
into eastern Aleppo. The cessation of hostilities was no cure-all, but its
revitalization could end this rolling massacre in Aleppo and prevent the siege
that we all fear is coming.
States should pressure the Syrian government and Russia to immediately halt
airstrikes on civilian areas and hospitals and remove their aircraft from the
area, which strike fear in the hearts of Aleppo’s children every day. Routes
into the city must remain open so that food and fuel for ambulances and
hospitals can reach us. We cannot endure a siege.
States and Russia say they are committed to the cessation of hostilities and
that it extends to Aleppo. But we need more than hollow statements. We need
them to push their allies to respect international humanitarian and human
rights law. Hospitals cannot be targets.
should be outraged by these systematic war crimes and do whatever they can to
make them stop. The destruction of Aleppo is happening under the world’s watch.
We pray for it to stop. For Aleppo, for our patients and for ourselves.
Osama Abo El Ezz, a general surgeon, is the
Aleppo coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society.