At 2:30 pm local time on Thursday, November 19, an aerial attack was launched on Erbin, one of the besieged zones to the east of Damascus in Syria. Half an hour later, at approximately 3:00 pm, when seven wounded patients were arriving for urgent treatment, two missiles exploded just outside the entrance of the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported makeshift hospital in the area.
Two people were killed, six more people were injured, bringing the total of wounded to 13 — including two medics who were trying to triage and provide first assistance — and damage was done to the hospital building and one ambulance. One of the medics needed life-saving open chest surgery, and the other had multiple fractures.
"The situation was chaotic,” said the director of Erbin hospital, who wishes to remain anonymous. “We were just starting to treat the first influx of wounded when suddenly other missiles hit in front of the hospital. It took us a moment to realize that two of our colleagues who had been assisting the wounded at the entrance were severely injured. A dramatic situation suddenly became doubly dramatic.”
The following day, intense bombing in the Ein Terma neighbourhood and in the East Ghouta besieged area continued. An MSF-supported makeshift hospital in this area treated 17 war-wounded patients, and recorded six people dead on arrival.
“MSF is appalled that again a health structure and staff are targeted after responding to provide life-saving treatment to wounded victims of an indiscriminate bombing campaign,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations. “We feel the pain and despair of these medics, who are struggling with the odds so heavily stacked against them. Day after day, these doctors and nurses are working under siege and under bombs; they have very limited equipment, and are forced to work in converted makeshift buildings. With two talented medics very seriously wounded, the number of medics available for these communities that are under siege and under a torrent of bombs has shrunk even further these past days.”
MSF operates six medical facilities in the north of Syria and directly supports more than 100 health posts and field hospitals throughout the country, with a particular focus on the besieged areas. These are mostly makeshift facilities with no MSF staff present, where MSF provides both material support and distance training support to help the Syrian medics cope with the extreme medical needs. This support network has been built up over the past four years.