Blog | The long road to Aleppo

It’s 1pm, and a truckload of supplies enters from Turkey into the hands of our logistics team waiting at the other side of the Bab Al Hawa crossing point. It’s a big day – medical equipment, like incubator parts, are about to be delivered to the last Children’s Hospital in Aleppo.

We hit the road, and the road seems long from the potential risks ahead. Through the towns we pass, scenes of destruction flash by. After two hours, we arrive at the entrance of the city, and gear ourselves up for the most critical part of the journey: Castello Road.

It’s the only road that can provide humanitarian access into eastern Aleppo city, yet the two kilometer ‘lung of the city’ is regularly endangered by gunfire on civilian users. We drive faster along the sniper barrages that line parts of it.

We make it into the city without incident, feeling a rare sense of satisfaction at having managed to bring an ounce of hope into this exhausted city. 

“Warehouses are a vital stockpiling center for health facilities in Aleppo. They’re able to provide medicine and medical supplies to field hospitals and health centers scattered through different neighborhoods,” says Abu Mutasim, the manager of IDA’s warehouse that distributes supplies to hospitals in the city according to their need.

From the moment medical supplies enter Syria, uncountable risks continue to affect their life-saving capacity in Aleppo – and are far from over when they arrive to destination due to the constant airstrikes. As a city constantly under threat of besiegement, deliveries like these into Aleppo bolster the steadfastness of medical centers prepared for the worse.


The bombing of Al Quds and the failed ceasefire

As doctors working on the frontlines of the war in Aleppo, we viewed the cessation of hostilities that was brokered in February with scepticism. Over the last week, our worst fears were driven home in the most horrific circumstances. The city is bleeding.

On Wednesday, Syrian or Russian jets bombed the Al Quds hospital in eastern Aleppo city. At least 30 people lost their lives, at least 60 more were injured, and our friends at the White Helmets continue to pull bodies out from the rubble. Among those killed in the attack our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Muhmmad Wassim Maaz.

We will always remember Dr. Maaz as the kindest and bravest of souls, whose devotion to treating the youngest victims of this war was unparalleled. That attack robbed eastern Aleppo of its last remaining paediatricians, and we considered Dr. Wassim one of the best paediatricians left inside of Syria. It was another deadly reminder that those attacking Aleppo have no regard for the sanctity of life or humanity.

Another dear friend, Dr. Mohammed Ahmad, one of the ten dentists remaining in eastern Aleppo, was also killed in the airstrikes. He joins Dr. Maaz and at least 730 of our Syrian colleagues who were killed in Syria over the last five years. Our heroic colleagues at the White Helmets have similarly suffered grave losses for risking their lives to save others. Just one day before Dr. Ahmad and Dr. Maaz were killed, the Al-Alareb Training Center of the White Helmets, was hit by multiple surface-to-surface airstrikes, killing five of their volunteers: Ahmad Abdullah, Khaled Bashar, Ahmad Mahmoud, Hamdo Haj Ibrahim, and Hussain Ismail.

Soon there will no medical professionals at all left in Aleppo – where will civilians turn to for care and attention?

In a two day period this week, nearly four people were killed every hour and over fifty injured. Our hospitals are at breaking point. If this isn’t a sign that the cessation of hostilities has failed then we do not know what is.

Russia and the US made what they said were firm commitments to see a cessation of hostilities take hold and endure, but they are now failing on those commitments and it is the women, children and elderly of Aleppo who are paying the heaviest price.

While a ceasefire is by no means a lasting solution to the crisis, reinforcing it might help stave off further massacres like the attack on Al Quds Hospital and a complete siege of Aleppo. If Aleppo were to be besieged it could result in a disaster akin to the scale of Srebrenica.

Russia claims it is serious about peace, so it now must live up to its obligations and ensure that airstrikes against the city stop and a cessation of hostilities takes hold and is respected by all parties.

If Russian and international pressure can bring an end to the assault against Aleppo it will be a positive step, but more needs to be done. As medical professionals, we are struggling every day to access the vital supplies we need to treat the injured and dying. Supplies coming from Castello Road, the only road from which humanitarian supplies in eastern Aleppo can be accessed, has been disrupted for months and is now barely functional. The US should use its leverage to ensure this essential supply route is not impeded again.

As co-leads of the ISSG, events unfolding are happening on the watch of Presidents Putin and Obama. They have the power and responsibility to protect civilians. We hope and pray they will use it, for the sake of Syria, Aleppo, our patients and ourselves.

Syrians Appeal for Civilian Protection As Aleppo Comes Under Attack

“We are being left to die as the world watches.”

The people of Aleppo need the international community’s protection. In the past week, the Assad regime and its allies have escalated their bombings of civilian homes and hospitals across Aleppo, killing more than 200 civilians in the process. We, as representatives of Syrian civil society and humanitarian groups, strongly condemn the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Syria and demand civilian protection. Without the international community’s protection and concrete action to stop the bombs across Aleppo, where 250,000 people still remain, there is a very real chance that Aleppo will be entirely destroyed and more will die.

The international community’s failure to prioritize our protection amounts to a death sentence. We are being left to die as the world watches.

In spite of the Syrian Cessation of Hostilities, one Syrian is being killed every 25 minutes. In Aleppo on Wednesday 27 April, at least 50 patients, medics and doctors were killed, including the last remaining Pediatrician of Aleppo, Dr. Wassim, after the Syrian regime bombed Al Quds hospital. Just two days earlier, on April 25, five rescue workers from the White Helmets were killed during regime airstrikes on Atareb, western Aleppo province. The attack came shortly after Russian airstrikes that killed ten civilians in Aleppo. A week earlier, the Syrian regime launched attacks in a marketplace in Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province that left dozens dead, including many women and children.

The Syrian regime is deliberately targeting civilians and hospitals. It is intentionally destroying medical facilities, schools, and marketplaces in an effort to bomb civilians into submission. People the Syrian regime cannot kill by air, it starves on land. Assad’s troops continue to besiege civilian towns across the country, where they impose deliberate starvation methods and confiscate medical relief items from aid convoys. As a result of these sieges, more than 18 cities and towns across Syria are under siege. But just one area—Dier Ezzor—receives airdrops. For months, we have appealed to the international community to airdrop aid to all besieged areas, including to Homs and Hama. Our calls have gone unanswered.

We do not understand why we are being condemned to death when there are concrete steps that the international community could take to protect us. We appeal to the international community to prioritize our protection and do what it takes to stop the bombs across Syria. Help us save our Syria. More lives need not be lost.


• Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression • Independent Doctors Association •
• Baytna Syria • Union of Syrian Civil Society Organizations • Zaytoon • Peace and Justice for Syria •
• Dr Amer Masri • Alaa Basatneh • SAY • Zaad • Syrian Welsh Society • Rethink Rebuild Society •
• Syria Solidarity UK • Scotland4Syria • Help4Syria • Syrian Society in Nottinghamshire •
• Syrian Platform for Peace • Kurds House •

Dr. Hatem’s letter from Aleppo

Following the death of our colleague Dr. Maaz in an airstrike on Al Quds Hospital on April 28th, Dr. Hatem, fellow pediatrician, friend of Dr. Maaz and the Director of IDA’s Children’s Hospital in Aleppo wrote a moving tribute and appeal to the world about the declining situation in Aleppo, published on The Syria Campaign

The letter has reached and mobilised an extraordinary number of people around the world, and we received many a heartwarming response. Thank you all, and we hope to see the change we believe in.

TSC letter



Dr. Wassim Maaz and patients killed in Aleppo hospital bombing

What happened last night in the city of Aleppo broke our hearts as we lost our highly esteemed Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz, the Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospital in Aleppo that is supported by Independent Doctors Association. He devoted many services to the children of the city of Aleppo. Dr. Maaz was martyred due to what staff on the ground believe to be an airstrike perpetrated by the regime or its allies on Al Quds Hospital. The warplane directly targeted medical facilities, staff and civilians in the area in addition to patients in and outside the hospital.

These ongoing and systematic attacks are an explicit violation of humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law, which stress the protection of medical facilities and humanitarian workers against military operations and that categorically prohibit any kind of violence perpetrated upon them. These attacks by the Syrian government are crimes against humanity and we ask the international community to hold the perpetrators to account and put an end to the attacks immediately.’”

— Statement from Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa in Gaziantep, the Director of Independent Doctors Association 

On Wednesday night one of Independent Doctors Association’s pediatric staff and a well-respected member of the medical community in Aleppo was killed in a direct airstrike to the Al Quds Hospital (also known as Bassel Aslan Hospital) in Al-Sukkari neighborhood. The attack took place at around 21:50 and destroyed the hospital, leaving approximately 30 people dead.

Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz, originally from Aleppo, was the Medical Director of IDA’s Pediatric Hospital in Aleppo (formerly known as Al-Hakeem Hospital). He also worked evening and overnight shifts in the Al Quds Hospital, where he was serving the night of the attack.

Dr. Maaz-3 (1)Dr. Maaz

Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz tends to his patients in the Pediatric Hospital of Aleppo. Taken by Omar Etaki in February 2016.

Fighting in Aleppo began to escalate on April 22 raising the latest death toll to over 100 throughout Aleppo over just the past week. The recent intensification of attacks in Aleppo has left the February 27 cessation of hostilities agreement in pieces and brought on the near collapse of the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva

This latest rampage in Aleppo qualifies as one of the worst periods of renewed escalations in the war in Syria, and is consistent with the kind of strikes against civilian and medical infrastructure that was systematically undertaken by the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in Northern Syria in February. In a targeted attack on April 25, five Civil Defense members in the town of Atareb in the Western countryside of Aleppo were also killed by air strikes on their local headquarters.

Yesterday’s airstrike in Aleppo may have destroyed a key facility but it also took away an uncountable number of lives through the loss of such a resourceful medical worker in a city so deprived of healthcare services. Dr. Maaz may not have been Aleppo’s last pediatrician killed, though one of just six pediatricians remaining in the city. He was however the highest trained pediatrician, and notably a certified trainer for activities preventing child malnutrition with a much-needed capacity to empower other doctors. 

Interview with Dr. Hatem, Director of IDA’s Pediatric Hospital in Aleppo and colleague of Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz

What are the implications of the return of the bombing campaign in Aleppo on your work as doctors?

The return of the bombing over Aleppo city has led to the spread of fear and terror among civilians. An airstrike attack on Monday took place close to our Pediatric Hospital, 200 meters away. When the bombing intensifies over our area, the medical staff on the first floor of the hospital goes down to the ground floor carrying the babies’ incubators with them in order to protect them. During the last four days, I noticed that the bombing intensified between 10 am and 14:00 pm.

Do you feel that the escalated bombing in Aleppo is a prelude to an attempt to continue or finalise its besiegement?

The regime counts on bombing Aleppo city to cleanse as many people as possible before implementing a siege around it. This is the policy that has been applied for a year in this city that has a population of around 300,000. Any siege of Aleppo will lead to shortages in our emergency and non-emergency supplies due to already insufficient reserves. It will affect mostly the patients with chronic diseases, cancer, and kidney problems because they need constant treatment. In addition to this, the siege will lead to the spread of leishmaniosis (skin disease) and epidemics such as scabies, lice, measles, and Hepatitis A. 

What kind of medical problems do most of the patients coming to the Pediatric Hospital suffer from when the bombing increases in Aleppo?

Since we are a specialized Pediatric Hospital, we receive many cases of asthma – children who have breathing difficulties that lead to suffocation due to the emission of smells after each bombing, such as the dust and powder. We received 15 cases of children injured during the bombing. They were surgical injuries ranging from minor to severe including amputations, who were directly referred to surgical hospitals.

Tell us about your colleague Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz.

He was a pediatrician, originally from Aleppo. Every day we used to spend six hours together. He was friendly, kind, with always a smile on his face. He used to joke a lot with me and the whole staff. He really was the loveliest doctor in our hospital. He was preparing to come to visit his family in Turkey the week after my return from Istanbul to Aleppo. He hasn’t seen his family for four months, but he used to always say, ‘’I will stay in Aleppo.’’ He was a brave man who refused to leave Aleppo under any circumstance.

Now, without any form of defense for doctors, we will keep losing doctors.


View this statement on the Syria Campaign.


Aleppo doctors on strike over lack of protection

Doctors in Aleppo took to the streets today after calling for a general strike in all of Aleppo city’s hospitals to protest against the unlawful detention and killing of an employee of Al Dakak hospital yesterday. The employee was taken by an armed group in front of IDA’s Children’s Hospital and later died from his wounds.

Demonstrating today in front of IDA’s blood bank in Al-Sha’ar neighborhood, doctors and residents held up signs declaring ‘’Medical staff are humanitarian workers’’, ‘’I am a child, it is my right to have a safe hospital’’ with many containing the hashtag ‘’I am a fighter not a killer’’ referring to an Aleppo-wide campaign encouraging respect for international humanitarian law. 

In written statements released today, the doctors have demanded swift accountability for the perpetrators, the carrying-out of a just court process, the safeguarding of hospitals and a ban on unauthorized weapons in their facilities.

The following IDA-run facilities in Aleppo city are taking part in the strike, and will only be providing emergency services: the Children’s Hospital; Al Zahraa Gynecology Hospital; the Blood Bank; Al Ikhlas, Saad Bin Mouaz and Assadiyeh Primary Health Care centers.

‘’We will continue striking until the perpetrator faces accountability’’, says Dr. Hatem, the Director of the Children’s Hospital. ‘’We are demanding the protection of our medical staff and facilities.’’



IDA thanks the Turkish Red Crescent

Independent Doctors Association’s Director Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa presents a letter of gratitude to the Turkish Red Crescent team leader Kadir Kemaloğlu in Kilis in recognition of their long-lasting efforts in facilitating IDA’s cross-border work. The collaborative ties between the two organisations were particularly valuable and rewarding over the past two months in ensuring humanitarian assistance reached Northern Aleppo after the latest large wave of displacement.