Andrew Mitchell questions Government on attacks on health facilities and the fate of civilians in the Idlib area of Syria.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, and I thank too the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), my co-chair of the all-party group on Syria.
The much respected and senior British military officer Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon has just returned from Idlib where he is an adviser to the Idlib health directorate and he says this today:
“Nearly 700 civilians have been killed this year in Idlib and there are 500,000”
internally displaced people crammed into Idlib
“many without homes living in the open and off scraps”.
He adds that there is
“evidence of another chemical attack. There have been 29 attacks on hospitals by Russian and Syrian aircraft with many now out of commission. A handful of hospitals and doctors are now trying to care for 3 million civilians.”
The Minister will know that the Foreign Office is collecting evidence of those involved in atrocities and breaches of international humanitarian law. Can he confirm that the Foreign Office is seeking to identify, name and shame not only the aircraft attacking these hospitals, which are mainly marked with red crosses, but the pilots and people operating those planes? This is clearly a breach of international humanitarian law; it is arguably a war crime and we must ensure, wherever we can, that there is no impunity for such grotesque actions.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend: either the regime and its supporters’ statements are wildly inaccurate or its targeting is wildly inaccurate. He will know that the UN provides co-ordinates of sensitive sites including schools and hospitals. He will share my despair at the number of those institutions, including two major hospitals, that have been damaged in this, and I am sure he will also share my enthusiasm that those who responsible for this are, sooner or later, brought to book.