It was April 13, just past noon, and Hasan al-Araj was behind schedule as he left an underground hospital for his next rounds. He was usually careful to check the skies above him in Hama, where he was the last surviving cardiologist in the province’s rebel-held territory, for the Russian and Syrian warplanes that regularly cruised overhead. But, in his haste, he did not use his walkie-talkie to confirm with colleagues that the skies were clear.
A missile exploded near his van as he drove away. In the wreckage, colleagues found body parts and pieces of his white medical coat.
“It was targeting,” said Ahmad al-Dbis, a pharmacist and medical aid worker who worked closely with Araj. “It’s known that that’s the location of a hospital, and it’s known that most of the people moving around there are medical staff.”
Since March 2011, at least 738 Syrian doctors, nurses, and medical aides have died in more than 360 attacks on medical facilities, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The independent human rights group holds the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, responsible for upwards of 90 percent of these attacks.
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