Factcheck: did the Turkish military struck a hospital in Syria’s Afrin?

In the evening of March 16, 2018 news came in that a hospital in Afrin, Syria, was bombed by Turkish aircraft. The bombing occured around 21:00 local time.

Turkey, a NATO member, launched “Operation Olive Branch” on January 20, targeting Kurdish groups — some of them backed by the United States — to clear Afrin province of militias it considers to be terrorist organizations.

French press agency AFP was one of the first media to report.

At March 16, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at their website this story with headline ‘At least 16 casualties in a massacre by Turkish forces’ targeting for the only hospital in Afrin city’.

Press agency Reuters published the story with headline ‘Syrian Kurdish YPG, Observatory say strike on Afrin hospital kills nine‘. Reuters qoutes Rojhat Roj, a YPG media official in Afrin, saying “There was an air strike on Afrin’s general hospital, it’s the only big hospital”

The next morning Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri) responsed to the allegation by releasing a video and photos on Twitter and Youtube showing a large white building. The footage was made in the morning of Saturday March 17 around 09:43 using  a Turkish Armed Forces drone.

The statement on Twitter reads “The reports claiming that the hospital in Afrin was bombed by the Turkish Armed Forces are fake.”

The video, shown below, shows an undamaged white square building.

The Turkish Armed Forces on Twitter also published two photos of the same scene. One of the photos shows a much wider angle, not only showing the white building, but also a yellow building next to it.

This particular photo is interesting as it shows a large piece of wall missing on the south side of the building and craters on the roof of two buildings. The image below shows the damage to the yellow building.

Is the yellow building a hospital ?

So it seems the Turkish Armed Forces made a video showing the wrong building, not being the Afrin hospital, but make a mistake by publishing a photo showing also the  building next to it , showing damage which could have been caused by a bomb, artillery of mortar.

Is the yellow building the Afrin hospital? Google maps shows that not the white, square building is the hospital, but the building next to it. The screenshot of Google Maps below shows the white square building on the left of the hospital.

When searching on Internet many videos and photos of the hospital (which is named Avrin Hospital) can be found. Lets start looking at the Facebook page of the hospital.

The page shows a yellow building, with some red colour as well.

This photo shows the entrance of the hospital. Notice the same two airconditioning units at the right of the door. The photo shows the southern entrance. The photographer is facing towards the north.

Now lets us have a look at some videos.

At January 23, 2018 Russian Ruptly published a video showing the Afrin hospital. We see patients being brought in, we see an ambulance parked and we see the same entrance sign at the southern entrance. The cameraman is facing towards the south.

Also the video at this website shows clearly the yellow building being used as hospital.

This video published in March 2018, shows people rushed into the hospital. Yellow building can be clearly seen. A van uses the southerly entrance to bring a patient.

 

So no doubts here, the yellow building is 100% sure the hospital of Afrin.

How does the damage look like from groundlevel ?

Now we know there is damage to a building which is indeed the hospital, we need to have more  images showing damage. At Saturday morning photos and videos were published at internet showing the damage to the hospital.

A Twitter account named Afarin Mamosta posted videos and photos taken at March 17, 2018. The video is made from a building at the northside of the hospital facing towards the south.

This is the same video as published by someone at Youtube. A better quality can be watched here.

This overview shown below was made by BILD reporter Julian Röpcke. It clearly shows ambulances parked at the same position as shown in the drone footage released by the Turkish Armed Forces.

So we now know for sure the yellow building was indeed the hospital and is indeed damaged by shelling or one or more bombs dropped by an aircraft.

Local sources state the white building shown in the video released by the Turkish Armed Forces is called the Arîn Printing House. It is used to print books, magazines etc.  The drone footage shows there is a wall between the yellow building and the white building.

CNN reported about the bombing of the hospital at Saturday. It quoted the hospital general manager Dr. Jawan Muhammed who told  the images that Turkey released show only part of the hospital complex, not the main building that was hit. A building containing the emergency facilities was severely damaged, Muhammed said. “Most of the hospital was burnt” and “Only a small section of the complex is operational” Muhammed added.

A local source states the white building is not original part of the hospital. After attacks and increasing number of wounded people the Avrin Hospital was too small to accomodate the wounded people so the hospital started to use the white building next to it for patients as well.

Also at March 17, The Afrin Media Center at its Facebook page published a video showing the damage of the hospital. The cameraman walks at the nothernside of the hospital, in a westerly direction.

A black van can be seen parked at the righthandside of the street. Likely the same black van as seen in the drone footage.

German TV ZDF showed images taken from the hospital showing the damage.

The two ambulances are clearly the same as shown in the video made by the Turkish Armed Forces drone.

The ZDF video also show a dark blue  car and a white van. The same van and car can be spotted in the drone video.

Sharjah 24 released footage at Sunday March 18 showing more details of the details. Some footage is the same as shown by German ZDF. Door is damaged, a part of a brick wall is missing

We now can compare the situation of the hospital before and after it was struck.

Left a screenshot of a video made just before the struck at March 16. Right the video publised by Sharjah 24.

The green arrow points to the same airconditioning unit. The green box shows the damage of a wall.

So for 100% sure the yellow building is the Avrin Hospital in Afrin!

Was the hospital still operational at the time of the struck?

Some Twitter accounts mentioned  Avrin Hospital was not operational anymore at the time of the bombing. They showed a photo of a different hospital which was said to be in Afrin as well. Also some Tweets mentioned the hospital was evacuated the previous day because safety concerns.

Video footage which is said to have been made at March 16, 2018 show patients being rushed in to the hospital. The video source is ANHA Agency.

While there has been some photos published of people hurt, I could not verify if the photos were made just after the attack. We have to wait for more information on casualties.

What about reports of another hospital in Afrin?

On Twitter some Tweets state there is another hospital in Afrin. The building is at a totally different location.

It has 120 beds and was opened in November 2017 (source). Turkish media reported (english)the PKK had this hospital build to be used only my wounded soldiers, not by civilians. The location of this hospital is not known.

What kind of weapon was used in the strike?

That is not clear. Reports of local sources say Turkish military aircraft dropped three bombs. In recent weeks Afrin was hit by mortar fire which struck close to Avrin hospital.

Judging on the amount of damage seen from videos it seems mortar fire is the most likely weapon which hit the hospital. Possibly by accident. We need to wait official investigation to find out the weapon used.

 

Conclusion

It is a fact the  hospital in Afrin was struck by a bomb,mortar or artillery fire.  It is extremely likely the Turkish Armed Forces are responsible for that. Especially as they released a video not showing the actual damaged hospital but the undamaged building (part of the hospital) next to it.


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