A humanitarian catastrophe is looming in Idlib, as air strikes target hospitals in the last rebel stronghold with Russian and Syrian regime pressing for a final showdown.

Air strikes have put all hospitals out of service in southern Idlib, as the Syrian regime and Russia escalate their offensive to recapture the last major rebel stronghold in the country, Syrian doctors and the Idlib Health Directorate told TRT World.

Attacks on Idlib up until November 25 have left at least 15 of the 44 hospitals in the province either completely destroyed or inoperable, causing a rapid increase in the death toll, the Idlib Health directorate says. 

The burden of providing medical assistance to patients injured by air strikes now falls on the other remaining hospitals in Idlib after the destruction of the Kiwan and Kafranbel hospitals, and Shnan hospital in Jabal al Zawiya in rural Idlib, according to sources.

Idlib’s health directorate tells TRT World that Several Ambulance systems funded by NGOs, including Syria Relief & Development, the Union of Medical Care & Relief Organizations, the Syria Humanitarian Fund, Qatar Red Crescent, and the Idlib Health Directorate itself, are helping in transferring the injured to health facilities. The White Helmets, a volunteer organisation, is also working to rescue victims of the air strikes.

“Civil Defence members [the White Helmets] are the heroes on the ground right now,” the directorate says.

Doctors of the now-defunct hospitals are trying to provide support to the remaining hospitals in the border towns of Idlib. Dr Bashar Kayal, who was working as a paediatrician in Jabal al Zawiya before his hospital was hit by air strikes, tells TRT World that the support he’s able to provide to other hospitals, however, is limited due to a lack of medical equipment, medicine, and an ongoing fuel crisis.

“There are hospitals that will run out of reserve fuel in a few days, and will make things worse, unfortunately,” he says. The remaining functioning hospitals are now packed with heavily injured civilians, with doctors forced to make hard choices.

“It’s the hardest thing seeing a child or woman begging for help, when you are unable to help. One feels stuck when one sees a child or an older person die in front of you just because of bleeding that could be treated. You can not provide assistance to them because there is no space.”

Dr Zaher Hanak, Medical Director of the Kafranbel Surgical Hospital, which was put out of service because of the recent attacks, tells TRT World that he sees the bombing of hospitals as a calculated strategy. 

“I was at the hospital when it was bombed, and it was deliberately targeted,” he says adding that the fact that the entrance of the hospital was targeted proves that. 

“It was bombed three times,” he says.

The Syrian regime has been under fire for accusations of violating international law by repeatedly targeting medical facilities after receiving their locations from the United Nations, which was meant to ensure that air strikes did not hit hospitals. 

Syrian doctors previously agreed to share the locations of the medical facilities with the UN in an attempt to seek protection from Syrian and Russian air strikes -- a move that advocates say resulted in more frequent attacks. 

Below is a list of the hospitals in Idlib and their current condition in a document provided by the Idlib Health Directorate.

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(Idlib Health Directorate)
(Idlib Health Directorate)
Source: TRT World