Turkey has harshly denounced an attack on a hospital in northern Syria’s Afrin – which killed at least 13 civilians and injured 27 as of June 13th, 2021 – by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist group. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 18. According to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), an aid group that assists health centers in opposition areas, some of the deceased were hospital employees, including a doctor, three hospital staff, two women, and two children. The group also stated that two missiles were fired directly at the hospital, destroying the polyclinic department, emergency room, and birth rooms [I].
The hospital in Afrin was one of the largest in northern Syria, providing thousands of medical treatments every month, and its coordinates were supplied as part of the UN-led deconfliction system. According to DW databases, 90% of hospitals in Syria have been systematically attacked around 400 times in the country’s ongoing civil war. In the same way, targeted bombings have been part of a bigger plan to obstruct access to medical facilities in rebel-held areas [II].
The source of the bombardment, which came from locations where Syrian government troops and Kurdish-led militants are stationed, was not immediately known [I]. YPG denied involvement, however Ankara identified them as the main perpetrators. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remarked during a press conference before the NATO summit visit of 2021 that the terrorist attack on the hospital demonstrates the YPG’s imminent “treachery and savagery.” [III]
The Turkish Foreign Ministry “vehemently” condemned the incident and those who carried it out when it said that “the PKK/YPG/SDF has once again demonstrated its terrorist organization identity and murderous face by firing artillery and missiles at innocent civilians and health care personnel who labor diligently to assist the Syrian people in all conditions.” Turkey has also accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to the YPG’s heinous acts numerous times and has chastised specific countries, including the United States, for backing the terrorist group.
In its war against the Daesh terrorist organization, the US has largely collaborated with the YPG in northeastern Syria. Turkey, on the other hand, has been a vocal opponent of the YPG’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long opposed the United States’ assistance for the YPG, which terrorizes locals by burning their homes and forcing them to flee. Despite its NATO ally’s security concerns, the US has also provided military training and truckloads of military support to the YPG under the guise of battling Daesh [III].
It is important to remark that bombing health facilities is a clear violation of international human rights law, and may even be considered a crime against humanity under the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC).