For Immediate Release

April 15, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Following this morning’s attack in Al Rashdeen on a convoy of evacuees from the towns of Foah and Kafrayya, SAMS medical staff in the area are working tirelessly to treat the victims. More than 60 patients are currently being treated at a SAMS-supported hospital in Al-Atareb, and SAMS ambulance system has also transported more than 30 patients to a SAMS hospital in Aqrabat and Bab Al Hawa hospital. Many of the doctors working in Al-Atareb were themselves displaced from Aleppo city in the end of 2016.

While the perpetrators of this attack remain unknown, SAMS strongly condemns the use of violence against civilians, and calls on the UN and broader international community to intervene and provide the necessary protections. At the same time, the victims of this attack must be granted full access to healthcare and life-saving treatment, and all parties must respect medical neutrality and ensure that the medical facilities treating these patients are not targeted. SAMS is committed to upholding international humanitarian principles and treating all patients, regardless of their background or affiliation.

This attack took place in the midst of the forced evacuation from the so-called “Four Towns” of Madaya, Zabadani, Fuaa, and Kefraya. Last week, preparations began to evacuate the four besieged towns, based on an agreement reached on March 29 between the Syrian government and opposition forces for the towns of Madaya and Zabadani, besieged by the Syrian government and its allies, and Fuaa and Kefraya, besieged by non-state armed groups.

This forced displacement is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and marks yet another sad chapter in the history of this crisis. The absence of the UN and international community from this process has left the civilian populations especially vulnerable, leading to horrific events such as what took place today. The UN must not abandon its role in protecting innocent civilians and enforcing international humanitarian laws.

“Once again, we are witnessing the cruel byproduct of forced displacement in Syria: a lack of protection for the civilians most affected by the political agreements determining their fate,” SAMS President Dr. Ahmad Tarakji said.

“We urge equal, unfettered access to healthcare for the victims and for stringent measures to be put in place to prevent such attacks in the future. SAMS condemns attacks against civilians in the strongest of terms. We continue to operate under our mandate of treating all victims, regardless of background or affiliation. We want to heal Syria.”

Furthermore, we are receiving reports that the convoy of evacuees from Madaya has been prevented from proceeding towards its final destination of Idlib due to today’s events. Medical staff in the convoy report that civilians have been held on the buses for more than 18 hours without access to proper food or sanitation. SAMS calls for all civilians, including those in this convoy, to be treated humanely and in line with international humanitarian principles. We call on all parties overseeing the agreement to help ensure the safe passage of the evacuees.

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