Syrian security forces "forcibly removed" patients from a hospital and prevented doctors from reaching the wounded during a military siege in the restive central city of Homs this week, a leading human rights group said.
In a report released late Thursday, New York-based Human Rights Watch cited testimony from witnesses, including doctors. The report came as Syria was bracing for yet another day of anti-government protests Friday.
"Snatching wounded people from the operating room is inhumane and illegal, not to mention life-threatening," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Cutting people off from essential medical care causes grave suffering and perhaps irreparable harm."
Wednesday's military operation in Homs killed at least 20 people. It was among the most severe crackdowns on an urban center during the country's 6-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad. The U.N. estimates that some 2,200 people have been killed in the crackdown since March.
A doctor at the al-Barr said security forces seized some of the wounded from the hospital.
"When we tried to help the wounded who needed urgent medical care, the security forces pushed us back, saying these were criminals and rapists," the doctor told HRW.
"They were beating the wounded as they moved them out of the hospital."
There have been other reports of security forces targeting hospitals and rounding up the wounded in Syria and in Bahrain, where there were widespread protests this year led by the country's Shiite majority against the long-ruling Sunni monarchy.
Doctors and nurses who treated protesters during rallies in Bahrain were rounded up in a subsequent crackdown that resulted in the arrests of hundreds of activists.
Protesters in Syria take to the streets every Friday, despite the near certainty that they will face a barrage of bullets and sniper fire from security forces.