Syria Crisis

'Our Time Had Come' - A First-Person Account Of A Syrian Airstrike

As another airstrike rained down in Syria, Fadi Al Dairi knew that those inside Kfr Nobol Hospital, operated by the British NGO 'Hand in Hand,' would soon be targeted.

Kfr Nobol Hospital, ravaged by an airstrike
Kfr Nobol Hospital, ravaged by an airstrike
Fadi Al Dairi

The story of Kfr Nobol Hospital is no different from other health facilities inside Syria that have paid a heavy price in the conflict.

The hospital in Idlib province, operated by the British NGO Hand in Hand, has been targeted by airstrikes multiple times throughout the war, like so many other medical facilities in Syria. In the past, our hospital survived with minor damage that could normally be fixed within days and would not hinder our ability to provide services. This is partially because, before Russia entered the war in Syria, with its sophisticated weaponry and spot on the U.N. Security Council, things were slightly better.

This time, however, it was different. On Monday (February 5, 2018), airstrikes were so intense that we immediately moved our operations underground. But it seems that the weapons used that day were intended to reach staff underground; thermobaric, or so-called guided bombs, can penetrate many levels of concrete, for a maximum level of destruction.

Four airstrikes by Russian fighter jets ensured that the hospital is now completely out of service. It was the only surgical hospital within a 30-mile (50km) radius.

It took 41 minutes. Forty-one minutes of hell is what I would call it, where all I could think of was the number of those at risk and their families.

10:01 a.m.: As the Syria country director for Hand in Hand, I am based in Turkey, and on the day of the attack I was in my office in Gaziantep with the senior team managers.

The first airstrike missed the actual building and hit the concrete fence outside, about 80 feet (25m) away. It set fire to the "guards' room. At this point, we knew we would be targeted. We knew our time had come, and that this time they intended to finish the job. Patients and staff were moved to shelter in a "safe underground space" but equipment could not be moved.

10:06 a.m.: The team saw the second attack, and it was getting closer to the building.

10:14 a.m.: The third attack took place, hitting the second floor.

10:18 a.m.: We received a warning through our Safety & Security WhatsApp group of an imminent fourth attack.

10:20 a.m.: The fourth and final attack hit. The missile made devastating damage to the structure and penetrated through three levels of concrete.

10:21 a.m.: We received a message advising us that the attacks were over. We assume it's because fighter jets can only carry four missiles.

10:26 a.m.: Evacuation began from the dialysis unit, which performed 2,133 services in 2017. It is next to the emergency room, where 15,588 lives were saved in 2017.

10:42 a.m.: We received confirmation from the hospital manager that none of the team are injured.

I could relax. I took a deep breath and only then did I begin to think about how to open the hospital again. We were adamant that the bombing was not going to stop us from delivering emergency aid. We still did not know the full scale of the destruction.

Forty minutes later, the field medical manager arrived at the hospital to inspect the damage. He and his team started to send images showing the scale of the destruction.

It was only then that we realized the building had been totally destroyed. It would cost $650,000 to repair the building and $300,000 for the equipment. But thinking of the cost could not rattle me, as I had found out all medical personnel and patients were safe and sound in the designated safe space.

The next day was different.

I tried to remain calm despite feeling helpless, but I was filled with feelings of guilt. These were my employees and I am not there to support them. I tried to hide these feelings and appear strong in front of our senior management team. They did not realize what I was going through, so I may have been successful.

At some point I thought to myself, why am I doing it? Why do I have to go through this?

Then I thought about how many lives this hospital has saved during its existence. I reminded myself of the 83,845 services provided in 2017. I knew it was worth it, and resolved to double that number in 2018.

After all, there is nothing I can do but become more determined to continue my work with my colleagues to find funds that will allow us to reopen the facility again and resume operations.

We will not give in to this cruel war. Life is a big lesson we learn from and build on. You win with strong will.

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Society

A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.


Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?


The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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