SYRIA CONFLICT, hospital, child.jpg
A Syrian child receives medical treatment at a field hospital in Douma, Syria, 21 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/Mohammed Badra

At least four hospitals have been forced to close in Aleppo due to airstrikes by Russian or government forces, a monitoring group and a local medical official said on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said escalating air raids had forced four hospitals in the northern city and one in the nearby town of Atarib to stop working.

A local medical official said five hospitals in Aleppo had been forced to shut down due to varying degrees of damage, as had the hospital in Atarib and another nearby town, Kafr Hamra. 

There are now only two functioning hospitals in the rebel-held eastern sector of the divided city, Dr Abdel-Razik Darwish, head of the Aleppo Blood Bank, told dpa.

The air raids were deliberately targeting civilian facilities including hospitals and bakeries, and were not aimed at armed groups, he charged.

In May the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding protection of hospitals in conflict zones, days after at least 30 people were killed in an airstrike on a hospital in Aleppo.

Syria expert Thomas Pierret in February charged that the government and its Russian allies were deliberately targeting hospitals in order to empty hostile regions of both fighters and civilians.

Some 250,000 to 300,000 people are thought to be under siege in Aleppo since government forces cut off the only way into the rebel-held eastern sector earlier this month.

The Syrian government meanwhile said it was ready to resume UN-sponsored peace talks with the opposition.

“Syria is prepared to continue the Syrian-Syrian dialogue without preconditions in the hope that this dialogue will lead to a comprehensive solution formulated by Syrians themselves without foreign interference and with backing of the United Nations and international community,” an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry told state news agency SANA.

The UN hopes that a new round of Syria talks will be held in August.

Negotiations held earlier this year between the Syrian government and the opposition collapsed against the backdrop of a surge in fighting inside the country.

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It soon developed into a full-blown conflict, claiming more than 250,000 lives.

Some 4.8 million Syrians have fled the country since 2011, with another 6.6 million displaced inside its borders, according to UN estimates.

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