AAAS Analysis Confirms Hospital Damage in Syria

Satellite images confirm substantial war-related damage to several medical facilities in Syria, according to a new analysis by the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project.

The analysis was requested by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a nonprofit advocacy group, and is part of a larger effort by PHR called the Syria Mapping Project, an online effort to document more than 150 targeted attacks against health professionals, facilities, patients and transport in Syria.

The AAAS geospatial analysis group acquired imagery of hospitals in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Douma, Homs and Tafas from dates when news media, social media, and PHR's network of on-the-ground contacts had reported damage or destruction of the facilities.

By 16 July 2012, Amal Hospital has been completely destroyed (red box), as have many buildings in the surrounding neighborhood (red arrows). The destruction is oriented in a roughly north-south line. Smoke can be seen billowing from a building in the northern portion of the image. Coordinates: 34.7357627 N, 36.708954 E. Image ©2014, DigitalGlobe, NextView License (View Larger Version) | Analysis AAAS

AAAS was able to confirm the complete destruction of Amal Hospital in Homs by 16 July 2012. Another hospital in the Jouret al-Shayah neighborhood of Homs—scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the Syrian uprising—also was damaged.

The report also noted heavy damage consistent with shelling to a wing of the Zahri Azrak Hospital in northern Aleppo by 18 August 2012. No damage was visible in three images (in August, September and November of 2012) of Hamdan Hospital in Douma nor was there apparent damage to the National Hospital in Tafas during September 2013 when fighting was reported nearby.

The report's authors caution that significant damage was found across the street from the Hamdan Hospital, and it is possible that the sides of the hospital were damaged by ground-level fighting. Such damage would not be visible in overhead satellite images.

PHR also had asked the AAAS group to verify damage of a medical facility in the city of Idlib, but no appropriately timed imagery was available.

Despite limitations, satellite imagery does provide one way for outside observers to assess reports of the damage to key facilities, the AAAS report says, particularly given the difficulties of reaching sites on the ground due to the continuing high level of conflict.

The imagery used was collected by satellites owned and operated by DigitalGlobe.

The AAAS group will be investigating additional reports of damage to Syrian medical facilities, according to Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project. Primary support for the Syria report was provided by the Oak Foundation.