Airstrikes on a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least twenty-seven people, including patients and three doctors (Reuters). The UN's Syria envoy Staffan da Mistura said on Thursday he planned to host a new round of peace talks next month (Middle East Eye) and appealed to the United States and Russia to intervene to end hostilities. Mistura warned of losing "the window of opportunity to reverse the negative downward spiral" after a sixty-day-old cease-fire "hangs by a thread" (AP). Mistura said the cease-fire had sharply reduced fighting in March but that renewed attacks put the deal at grave risk.
"The vulnerability of the Syrian people is compounded by a health system at the breaking point. Almost half of Syria’s ambulances have been destroyed; more than one-third of its hospitals no longer function; and the flow of pharmaceutical imports has slowed to a trickle, with none reaching rebel-held zones. Moreover, local pharmaceutical production has collapsed; Syria now meets less than 10% of domestic demand, down from 90% before the conflict. This breakdown is not just an unfortunate side effect of the crisis; Syrian medical facilities have come under direct, seemingly deliberate attack. Physicians for Human Rights recorded 16 attacks on hospitals last October alone in a total of 346 attacks on 246 health facilities, while Doctors without Borders has condemned so-called double-tap tactics, in which aerial bombings of high-density civilian centers are followed by strikes on the nearest hospitals, removing emergency care for the injured. Even small clinics have been bombed by state-controlled forces," writes Debarati Guha-Sapir in Project Syndicate.
"One of the main aims of the 'cessation of hostilities' was to allow humanitarian aid to besieged areas. However, the UN and NGOs have said the regime is blocking access, delaying convoys, removing medical equipment and forbidding evacuations, violating international law and worsening the humanitarian crisis. On March 31, Jan Egeland - the UN-appointed chairman of a task force on humanitarian aid - said Damascus had become less responsive to requests for aid convoys than it was immediately after world powers agreed on the 'cessation of hostilities' in early February. The previous day, senior UN official Stephen O'Brien described the situation in regime-besieged areas - 'mere minutes' drive away from UN warehouses in Damascus' - as dreadful," writes Sharif Nashashibi for Al Jazeera.
"The U.S. response to this renewed carnage has been to point out, weakly, that not every part of Syria has returned to all-out war. 'More Syrian people are living better lives as a result of the cessation than they were before,' State Department spokesman John Kirby declared Monday. Unfortunately, such rhetoric appears to be all the United States has to offer. Since President Obama refuses to take steps such as creating a safe zone for refugees or stepping up aid to the rebels, the United States lacks leverage over the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies," writes the Washington Post.
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