UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in denouncing a surge of ‘horrific attacks’ on medical personnel and facilities in war-torn Syria, called on the Security Council to take decisive actions to end crimes against humanity and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

At least six people were killed in massive air bombardment and artillery attacks on two of the largest hospitals in rebel-controlled Aleppo as a Syrian government onslaught continued and the civilian death toll climbed to 400 people with 1,700 others wounded.

He stressed that the deliberate attacks on hospitals are war crimes and added that the denial of access to essential health care facilities is a direct violation of international humanitarian law.

A medical association said there were only six hospitals now remaining in the besieged city that has been pounded by massive aerial bombardment and artillery attacks since a ceasefire collapsed last week.

Ban: “Deliberate attacks on hospitals are war crimes”

“Denying people access to essential health care violates international humanitarian law,” Mr. Ban stressed, outlining three recommendations to the UN Security Council.

Firstly, Member States should do all they can to promote respect for medical facilities while in armed conflict. They must also align their laws to be in line with international humanitarian law.

Secondly, Member States and belligerents must take conscious efforts safeguard medical facilities and personnel when they plan and conduct military operations, including in military orders, location of targets, issuing of advance warnings and evacuations.

Thirdly, accountability is of paramount importance. Those responsible for humanitarian violations should be prosecuted and punished, and reparations and support should be awarded to those affected by such attacks.

Only 5% of medical personnel left in Aleppo

In a statement to the 15-member Security Council during a debate on the protection and health care facilities caught in armed conflict, the UN secretary general also stressed that the “Failure to act is an affront to our shared humanity. It undermines States’ legal obligations and the multilateral system as a whole.”

He notes that nearly 600 such attacks between 2014 and 2015 killed 959 people and injured more than 1,500.

Such attacks are often deliberate, are intended to aggravate suffering, causes massive human diaspora, and humanitarian crises. He emphasises that international law makes it clear that medical workers, facilities and transports must be protected and no matter the status of the wounded, be it civilians and fighters must all be spared.

The town of Aleppo has faced the most sustained and intense bombardment in the five years that this conflict begun. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances and medical staff are under attack around the clock. Shockingly, 95% of medical personnel who were in the city before the war reported to have fled, been detained or killed.

Hospitals increasingly under attack despite Geneva Conventions

Meanwhile the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer underscored the importance of enshrining into laws that protect access to health care and ensure these attacks are punished.

“Much stronger engagement is needed to turn your commitment into a reality on the ground, to make a real difference for people suffering in wars. I urge you to continue to push (for tougher legislations),” he said, referring to a Security Council resolution in May that calls for better protection for health care workers, the sick and wounded, hospitals and clinics in war zones.

“(On September 28) the two largest hospitals in Aleppo were reportedly attacked. Patients were killed. Medical staffwere injured. And all across the country, many hospitals are no longer functional, leaving injured people with little hope of getting life-saving medical assistance. The violence, the disruption of electricity and water supplies and the lack of medicines have severely jeopardised access to health care,” he warned. MIMS