A “double-tap” barrel bombing hit a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital, known as Doctors Without Borders in America, in Zafarana in Syria’s Homs province, killing seven people and injuring 47.
“This bombing shows all the signs of a double-tap, where one area is bombed and then a second bombing hits the paramedic response teams or the nearest hospital providing care,” Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for MSF, stated of Saturday’s 9:40 a.m. attack. “This double-tap tactic shows a level of calculated destruction that can scarcely be imagined.”
These bombs are “filled with oil or forms of shrapnel loosely dropped from high altitudes via helicopter.” The first attack hit a populated area, “killing a man and a young girl and wounding 16 other people.” The second bomb damaged the hospital’s kidney dialysis unit when the helicopter dropped it nearby.
Despite the damage, the hospital took in the wounded for treatment. But a helicopter dropped two more bombs on its doorsteps only 40 minutes after the second bomb.
“This makeshift hospital was providing a lifeline of care to around 40,000 people in Al Zafarana town and the surroundings,” continued de le Vingne. “It is already a tragedy that seven people–including a small girl–have been killed, but if the hospital has to close down or reduce activities, that is a double tragedy for the people living under the permanent threat of war, with nowhere else to turn for medical assistance.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been known to use these barrel bombs in the civil war. In August, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power claimed the forces dropped more than 2,000 of the bombs since July.
“The Assad regime has apparently grown reliant on the repugnant use of barrel bombs as an instrument of terror against innocent Syrian civilians,” she said. “It is long past time for the international community to come together to end the deplorable use of barrel bombs and all other forms of attacks against civilians in Syria.”
In September, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth told the UN to force Assad to stop using barrel bombs, especially since the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) can use the tragedies to recruit new members.
“It is a recruitment bonanza for ISIS because the group can claim to be standing up to these atrocities,” he declared.
A U.S. airstrike destroyed an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on October 3, killing 30 people, including some of the group’s doctors. MSF admitted the doctors were treating 20 injured Taliban fighters at the time of the attack. They also confessed the doctors allowed some armed Taliban fighters to enter the facility.
Last month, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell confirmed some troops have been suspended from their duties and are under investigation about the attack. He did not tell the media exactly how many troops are involved.
“I won’t discuss individual cases because our system requires fairness and the discretion of individual decision-makers,” he said, adding:
I can tell you that those individuals most closely associated with the incident have been suspended from their duties, pending consideration and disposition of administrative and disciplinary matters. We have learned from this terrible incident. We’ll also take appropriate administrative and disciplinary action through a process that is fair and thoroughly considers the available evidence. The cornerstone of our military justice system is the independence of decision-makers following a thorough investigation such as this one.
Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner told the media that “he was still in the process of reviewing the investigative report,” but also refused to mention how many troops they suspended or which rules they violated.
“We have to allow for due process for those involved,” he said.