Operating rooms and intensive-care units are being outfitted in an abandoned customs house just a few yards from here, across the Syrian border in rebel-controlled territory at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
Rebel fighters and civilians with gruesome injuries arrive every day, in desperate need of medical treatment. Even though Syrian warplanes have dropped bombs nearby, and international intelligence officials warn that those bombs could soon be equipped with chemical warheads, Syrian internist Monzer Yazji and the doctors he is working with say they are determined to open their 60-bed hospital soon.
“We are in the final stage of the collapse of the regime, and we have to be ready from Day One,” said Yazji, who lived in the United States for 20 years and runs a Syrian medical relief charity based in Turkey.
The hospital, he says, will repudiate everything Syrian President Bashar al-Assad represents. That means treating captured security forces members who fought against the rebels to prop up Assad’s government, the same government that has arrested, tortured and killed physicians who provided medical assistance to protesters and rebel fighters over the course of the 20-month-old conflict.