More than 590 health care workers have been killed by Syrian regime forces in deliberate and indiscriminate attacks in the past four years, a group of international medical activists said Wednesday.
In its report, "Doctors in the Crosshairs: Four Years of Attacks on Health Care in Syria," Physicians for Human Rights said it has documented 233 illegal attacks on 183 medical facilities since 2011, resulting in the deaths of 610 medical workers in attacks perpetrated by regime forces and non-state armed groups.
"The Syrian government has committed the vast majority of these attacks, and — in violation of human rights and humanitarian law — has systematically targeted health care services since the start of the conflict in 2011," the group said in a press statement accompanying the report.
The report said 2014 was particularly harrowing for health workers, with 64 percent of the medical personnel who were killed during the year were either targeted for their lifesaving work or killed in the line of duty.
The Syrian civil war enters its fifth year this month, having left as many as 210,000 people dead, according to the UN.
The government forces has been responsible for 88 percent of the recorded hospital attacks and 97 percent of medical personnel killings in the past four years, the report found, with 139 deaths directly attributed to torture or execution.
"The Syrian government has resorted to every tactic: emergency-room arrests, hospital bombings — including barrel bombs — and even the torture and execution of doctors who attempt to treat the wounded and sick," said Erin Gallagher, the group's director of investigations.
The conflict, which started in March 2011 when the regime of President Bashar al-Assad responded to anti-government protests with a violent crackdown, has also exacerbated an acute refugee crisis, with as many as 3.8 million Syrian refugees registered in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, according to the UN.
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