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Report: Assad regime bombing hospitals, other civilian targets

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Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Reuters

(Read caption) A still image taken from video footage, released by Russia's Defence Ministry on November 19, 2015, shows a Russian Tupolev TU-160 heavy strategic bomber conducting an airstrike at an unknown location in Syria.

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As the world focuses its attention on the Islamic State's terror attacks in Paris and the Syrian refugee crisis, one issue is being overlooked, according to a new report: With the help of Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been bombing hospitals and other civilian targets.

The report, which was released by the non-profit group, Physicians for Human Rights, states that Russian airstrikes have hit medical facilities at least ten times last month when Russia began bombing Syria. The bombings have made it extremely difficult for the already dwindling population of doctors and medical practitioners in Syria, almost 95 percent of whom have fled, been detained, or have been killed.

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According to the report, the strikes have hit medical facilities in close proximity to Aleppo: 45 healthcare facilities have been hit in the past three years, with over 329 attacks on facilities in October. The report claims at leas 687 medical personnel have died across the country. 

Russia’s involvement in Syria began on September 30, when Putin agreed to support Assad's regime in Syria's civil war. The focus has been on ISIS, but according to the report, many of the targets have been against Syrian opposition groups. 

“Parties to the conflict must ensure respect for, and protection of, health facilities and patients under international humanitarian law,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, told Vice Magazine. “The overall impact [on] the health situation has been devastating, with many civilians, particularly in areas not controlled by the Government, unable to access even the most basic medical care.” 

Following recent extremist attacks on Paris, Beirut, and Egypt, the focus of the international community has been on combating the Islamic State. A number of unlikely allies – including Russia, the United States, China, and many European countries – are joining forces and shared intelligence in what Pope Francis is calling “World War III.” But little attention in recent days has been drawn to the Assad regime’s civil war, which has already claimed over 250,000 lives – 30,000 of which have been children.

"While the self-declared Islamic State … has grabbed headlines with its exhibitionist violence, the Syrian government has systematically violated every international law aimed at protecting civilians," the group wrote. "Its strategy is to bomb its citizens into submission – destroying hospitals, markets, and mosques in order to punish the opposition and its supporters for their political views and make life unbearable outside of areas it controls."