Syrian snipers are intentionally targeting children with the intent to paralyze them, reports The Times of Israel.
The paediatric intensive care unit of Israel’s Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya has treated 25 seriously injured Syrian children since last July, delivered to the hospital by the Israel Defense Forces, many with the same telltale bullet wounds in the spine. The hospital has treated a total of 230 Syrians since March 2013.
Dr. Yoav Hoffman, a senior physician at the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit, explained the distinct bullet injuries that indicate intentional sniper targeting: “The injuries are very specific: gunshot wounds from a single bullet to the lumbar spine, near vertebrates 2 and 3,” Hoffman told The Times of Israel. “These shootings are not intended to kill, but to cause misery. They result in paralysis or slow death in Syria’s conditions.”
Hoffman added that he had never seen such injuries outside the battlefield; his colleagues initially believed that the spinal injuries were a coincidence. But when patients displaying the same injuries kept coming in, the hospital staff was “moved to tears” as it realised that the children were being targeted.
Hoffman explained that the children treated in Nahariya have received little or no treatment in the field in Syria. The children often arrive alone with no medical records. Children typically arrive with bullet wounds and multi-traumatic injuries resulting from explosions.
Hoffman said that the children left paralysed return home to Syria in wheelchairs donated to the hospital. “You can tell they’re extremely scarred emotionally,” he said. “But they’re very grateful for the treatment.”
Syrian civilians are caught in the middle of their country’s brutal civil war, which has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians. Although Israel and Syria are still officially in a state of war, over 1,000 Syrians have been quietly treated by Israel so far, 700 of them in an IDF field hospital on the Golan Heights near the Israel’s Syrian border and others in civilian hospitals across northern Israel. The ethical code of the IDF Medical Corps states that soldiers must assist anyone who is sick or wounded, regardless of whether they are associated with the enemy.