Volunteer medic shot dead by Assad’s security forces

The Syrian Red Crescent ambulance was left peppered with bullet holes along its sides, rear and roof as well as through its front windscreen after the attack on September 7. The attack, which the Red Crescent blamed on Syrian security forces, killed one of the three volunteer medics.

One of three Red Crescent volunteer medics injured when their ambulance was shot repeatedly by Syrian security forces in the central city of Homs died on Thursday of his wounds.

Hakam Draak al-Sibai died in Lebanon’s American University Hospital from gunshot wounds sustained on September 7 when the Red Crescent ambulance he was transporting a wounded man in came under fire in Homs’ Abu Hol street.

In a report on the attack, a leaked Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) document said the gunfire came from either “security or the army” and said 31 bullets had been fired at the ambulance from four sides as it transported a man who had been wounded in his arm in an earlier attack.

Photos of the ambulance show it peppered with bullet holes along its sides, rear and roof as well as through its front windscreen and blood stains are seen on the passenger seat and on the floor of the vehicle.

The two other volunteers in the ambulance at the time, Muhammad Hakam Mubarak and Abdel Hameed al-Fajr were also injured, as was the patient.
GlobalPost first reported in May on the systematic attempt by Syrian security forces to prevent injured protestors receiving medical care and the dangers faced by medics attempting to treat them.

Read GlobalPost: Syrian protesters denied medical care

The following day, September 8, security forces at a checkpoint in the Khaldiyya neighbourhood of Homs stopped a Red Crescent vehicle on its way to drop off a staff member at his home and then insulted and beat the driver, Naim Dardoush, accusing him and the Red Crescent of “rescuing protesters and gang members.”

“If Red Crescent volunteers are not safe from harm, who is?” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Attacks on humanitarian workers are unacceptable in any context, and the United Nations commission should make investigation of this incident a priority.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the attack the SARC volunteers, one of its many sister organizations. The attack, a violation of international humanitarian law which requires all parties to a conflict to guarantee safe passage to doctors to treat the wounded, was not the first time medica had come under attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces.

"It is completely unacceptable that volunteers who are helping to save other people's lives end up losing their own," said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Near and Middle East.