At least 30 killed in airstrikes on Syrian hospital, activists say

A series of airstrikes on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has left at least 30 people dead, a local volunteer said Thursday.

"We have 30 bodies: 22 identified and eight others whose names are not known yet," Abdel-Rahman, a member of the non-governmental group the White Helmet Civil Defence told dpa by phone.

He said the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are pulled from the rubble of the al-Qudos hospital in the rebel-held al-Sukari neighbourhood.

The identity of the warplanes that carried out the attacks was not known.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special envoy to Syria, told Dubai-based Al Arabiya television he did not believe the attack on the Aleppo hospital was "a mistake," and described it as "a war crime."

He did not elaborate on who might have been responsible.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the airstrikes, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, noting that attacks targeting civilians were "inexcusable violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."

The opposition accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia of involvement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement the airstrike followed the Assad regime’s "appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders."

He said the United States was "outraged" over the airstrikes, saying they appeared to have been deliberate.

Kerry also said Russia had a responsibility to press the regime to fulfill its commitments under UN resolutions. These include stopping attacks on civilians, medical facilities and first responders, and abiding fully by the cessation of hostilities.

However, Syria's state news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, denied that government warplanes had hit the hospital.   

Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, said that at least 14 people, including two doctors, were killed in the strikes.

"This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo, and the main referral centre for pediatric care in the area," Muskilda Zancada, the MSF head of mission in Syria, said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 27 civilians were killed in the bombardment of the hospital.

The dead included three children and Wassim Mouaz, the last pediatrician in the district, the Britain-based watchdog said.

The hospital, which was hit by 14 airstrikes late Wednesday, is now out of service, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Observatory.

Dr Abul Izz, a member of the Syrian American Medical Society, warned that the situation in Aleppo city is "becoming like a hell."

"The regime and its allies are targeting the health system deliberately to prompt the people to leave the city," he told dpa.

Elsewhere in the city, some 53 people were killed Thursday in rebel-held and pro-regime areas, Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Aleppo, Syria's pre-war commercial hub, is divided between a government-held western sector and the rebel-held east. Recent regime military advances, backed by Russian airstrikes, have put the east at risk of siege.

An estimated 250,000 people remain in Aleppo, which has seen dramatic increases in levels of bombardments, fighting and fatalities in recent weeks, according to MSF.

"Only one road remains open in and out of the non-government held areas. If it gets cut off, the city will become besieged," the aid group added in a statement.

In Geneva, senior UN envoy Jan Egeland warned that millions of Syrians are at immediate risk of being cut off from humanitarian aid unless fighting subsides.

Global and regional powers that form the International Syria Support Group promised in a Geneva meeting on Thursday that they would use their influence on the Syrian government and armed rebels, Egeland said.

Alarmed by the spike of violence in Syria, de Mistura called on the US and Russia to urgently help salvage a major truce in the country and UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending its five-year-old war.

The US-Russian-brokered ceasefire went into effect in February. But a surge in violence in recent weeks has left the truce in tatters. 

Last update: Fri, 29/04/2016 - 02:00

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