The World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned Monday’s suicide-bombing attacks, which targeted several civilian sites in the coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus, leading to the deaths of over 120 civilians. In particular, the targeting of a hospital Jableh killed more than 40 people and caused such extensive damage to the facility that patients had to be transferred to other hospitals in the region. The WHO pointed out that there have been at least 17 attacks on hospitals and health facilities this year, and both the Syrian coalition and Islamist rebel groups have been accused of conducting such strikes.
The ISIS terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, though several groups celebrated the killing of civilians in these largely Alawite cities – with Ahmad Muaffaq, an ‘Al-Jazeera’ journalist, openly supporting the terror attacks on his twitter page. And whilst the WHO chose to highlight the targeting of civilians and hospitals in these attacks, international media outlets almost all ran with headlines that stressed the attacks had taken place in ‘Assad strongholds’; for example, the Daily Beast reached new lows with a headline that focused on the presence of Russian troops in the region, saying that ISIS had opened ‘a new front’ there.
Whilst certainly in poor taste, to say the least, there is some truth to this headline as Tartus and Jableh have been spared the worst of Syria’s 5-year war and would represent ‘a new front’ for jihadist groups. Nevertheless, things are far from easy in Syria’s coastal towns and such attacks are not easily overcome: the civilian infrastructure barely withstands the strain of servicing the tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees now living there (the vast majority of Syria’s refugees have fled to government controlled cities), a problem that is compounded by the US embargo, which limits the supply of medicines and essential equipment available to the ~70% of Syrians living in government-held territory.