Airstrikes on hospitals and other medical facilities by Syrian government and Russian forces are part of a "strategy of war" designed to pave the way for ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
"Russian and Syrian government forces appear to have deliberately and systematically targeted hospitals and other medical facilities over the last three months," Amnesty said, adding that the attacks had intensified during recent negotiations on a ceasefire in Syria.
"Syrian and Russian forces have been deliberately attacking health facilities in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law," said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director.
"But what is truly egregious is that wiping out hospitals appears to have become part of their military strategy," Hassan said.
Amnesty quoted a doctor from Anadan, close to Aleppo, as saying most residents had fled by mid-February after attacks on the city's field hospital and medical centre on February 2.
"The ones who stayed behind are elderly people who are in desperate need of medical treatment," the doctor said.
Amnesty said the witnesses it spoke to all reported that there were no military targets or military personnel near the attacked hospitals.
Deliberate attacks on hospitals and other civilian targets "violate international humanitarian law and amount to war crimes," it said.
UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria are scheduled to restart in Geneva next week after they were suspended last month amid a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive around Aleppo that triggered an exodus of tens of thousands of civilians.
In December, Amnesty called for an independent investigation of reports that Russian airstrikes had killed hundreds of Syrian civilians, accusing Moscow of a "shameful failure" to acknowledge the deaths.
An Amnesty report on the civilian deaths highlighted evidence that Russia may have used internationally banned cluster munitions and unguided bombs to attack targets in residential areas, including hospitals.
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