Attacking Health Care: A Common Denominator in Conflict


Last week, Human Rights Watch reported that the Iraqi government repeatedly targeted and attacked Fallujah General Hospital in Anbar province. Fallujah is a pivotal city in Sunni-majority Anbar province, which has long accused the Shia-dominated central government of persecution. In January 2014, political tensions that had been simmering for over a year escalated into outright violence between paramilitary groups and Iraqi security forces.

Although the government has denied attacking Fallujah General Hospital, the weapons used in the attacks – mortar shells, direct fire weapons, and barrel bombs – are consistent with Iraqi military equipment. In deliberately attacking the hospital, the government of Iraq has unfortunately followed the nefarious example of its Syrian neighbor.

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq possess unique traits, but they share some underlying factors. Both conflicts began as a series of peaceful protests advocating for reform over legitimate grievances. Both witnessed largely peaceful movements hijacked by extremists. Now, both governments have violated international law by attacking medical facilities, which are specially protected entities under the laws of war. As is often the case, innocent civilians have suffered the highest costs in these conflicts.

The full article continues at on Physicians for Human Rights’ website.