Thursday 18 October 2018

British surgeon fears hacking of computer led to bombing of underground hospital in Syria

A Syrian boy squats on the kerb of a street near government forces in the eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna yesterday. Photo: Getty
A Syrian boy squats on the kerb of a street near government forces in the eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna yesterday. Photo: Getty

Hayley Dixon and Aisha Majid

A British surgeon who helped carry out operations in Aleppo fears the hacking of his computer led to a hospital being bombed by suspected Russian warplanes.

In a world first, David Nott, a renowned consultant, gave remote instructions via Skype and WhatsApp to doctors carrying out surgery in an underground hospital.

Government forces walk in the eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna. Photo: Getty
Government forces walk in the eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna. Photo: Getty

But after footage was broadcast by the BBC, Mr Nott believes his computer was targeted, allowing hackers to gain co-ordinates of the M10 hospital.

Weeks later a "bunker buster" bomb destroyed the M10 when planes, believed to be Russian, delivered a direct hit to the operating theatre, killing two patients. The hospital had to close.

Mr Nott believes the timing of the attack and precise nature of the target meant the location could only have been gleaned from co-ordinates on his computer.

Mr Nott, who has carried out dozens of operations in person in Syria, said that following advice from those on the ground, he would not perform any more surgery over his computer. It is understood the International Committee of the Red Cross will hold a meeting with staff next month to warn of the danger of hacking, using Mr Nott's fears as an example.

Last night Mr Nott said: "The thing that gets me is that we now cannot help doctors in war zones. If somebody is watching what we are doing and blows up the hospital then that is a war crime. It is a crime against humanity that you can't even help a doctor in another country carry out an operation. It is a travesty."

Whitehall sources said that technical experts believed that pinpointing a location by carrying out such a hack was plausible.

Meanwhile, rockets fired on a market in a government-controlled neighbourhood of Damascus yesterday killed 35 people and wounded more than 20 others, marking one of the highest death tolls in a single attack targeting the capital.

The government blamed rebels in the eastern suburbs of Damascus for the attack on the Kashkol neighbourhood

In eastern Ghouta, rescue workers were still retrieving bodies from the basement of a school that was bombed on Monday by government or Russian jets, a spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defence group said.

The bodies of 20 women and children were retrieved from the rubble, said the group, also known as the White Helmets. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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