April 19, 2018

Deadly air strikes hit MSF-backed hospital in Syria’s Aleppo

Ameer Alhalbi, AFP | A man gestures amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in the Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 28, 2016

Air strikes hit a hospital in a rebel-held area of Syria’s Aleppo and killed at least 27 people, including three children and the city’s last paediatrician, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.

A new wave of aerial bombing on Thursday on rebel-held districts of the city killed at least 30 more civilians, a rescue worker said. The Observatory put the toll at least 20.

In government-held areas, rebel mortar shelling killed at least 14 people, the Britain-based Observatory and Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

Escalating violence in Aleppo is pushing people living there to the brink of a humanitarian disaster, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in Geneva.

“Wherever you are, you hear explosions of mortars, shelling and planes flying over,” Valter Gros, who heads the ICRC office there, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“There is no neighbourhood of the city that hasn’t been hit. People are living on the edge. Everyone here fears for their lives and nobody knows what is coming next,” he said.

Aleppo has been the epicentre of a military escalation that has helped to undermine U.N.-led peace talks in recent weeks. A cessation of hostilities agreement has unravelled and fighting has resumed on numerous fronts in western Syria.

The bombed al-Quds hospital was supported by international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which said it was destroyed after being hit by a direct air strike that killed at least three doctors.

The Observatory said air strikes on rebel-held areas of Aleppo had killed 91 citizens in the past six days while rebel shelling of government-held areas had claimed 49 lives.

‘Living on the edge’

The ICRC said the intense battles raging in Aleppo had worsened the humanitarian plight of tens of thousands of residents in the city, which it described as one of the worst affected in five years of conflict.

In the hospital bombing, Bebars Mishal of the Civil Defence in Aleppo told Reuters that 40 people had been killed in a five-storey building next to the hospital.

A Syrian military source said government warplanes had not been used in areas where airstrikes were reported.

The Russian defence ministry, which is also conducting air strikes in Syria in support of PresidentBashar al-Assad, could not immediately be reached for comment. Russia has previously denied hitting civilian targets in Syria.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday the cessation of hostilities agreement was “barely alive”.

Peace talks he has convened in Geneva were undermined last week when the main opposition alliance walked out, citing ongoing violence and calling for proper implementation of a U.N. resolution requiring full humanitarian access to besieged areas.

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