October 21, 2016

Syria conflict: Deadly strike on Save the Children maternity hospital

The air strike in Idlib caused widespread damage

An air strike has hit a maternity hospital supported by Save the Children in north-western Syria, killing two people and wounding others.

The charity said several babies were hurt when incubators crashed to the floor, a pregnant woman lost a leg and two others suffered shrapnel wounds.

Images show part of the building in Kafer Takhareem destroyed. It is not clear who carried out the attack.

The air strike hit the entrance to the hospital in rural Idlib province.

Syria Relief, the aid agency that manages the hospital, said those killed were relatives of patients.

Save the Children said the hospital was the biggest in the area, carrying out more than 300 deliveries a month.

At the time of the bombing, two operations were under way and a woman was in labour, a statement said.

The hospital is believed to have stopped functioning, apart for the emergency department, and a generator which provided electricity for the building has been damaged.

Sonia Khush, the charity’s Syria director, said the bombing was “a shameful act”.

“There is no excuse, and unfortunately this is only the latest in a series of strikes on health facilities in Syria,” she said.

“We condemn these attacks, which are illegal under international law, in the strongest possible terms. We need an immediate ceasefire across Syria and an end to the appalling bombing of medical facilities.”

UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a nearby civil defence building was also damaged.

In other developments:

Activists say US-led coalition air strikes have killed 28 civilians in a northern Syrian village near Manbij. The US says it is investigating

The UN’s envoy to Syria has appealed to Russia to let the UN manage safe corridors from besieged areas of the city of Aleppo

Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, said on Thursday that three humanitarian corridors from Aleppo were being opened for civilians and unarmed rebels and a fourth for armed rebels.

About 300,000 people are trapped in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, under intense bombardment.

Russia’s announcement was welcomed cautiously by the UN, the US and some aid agencies.

The US has suggested the plan may be an attempt to force the evacuation of civilians and the surrender of rebel groups in the city.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that if the operation was “a ruse” it could disrupt US-Russian co-operation in Syria.

“It has the risk, if it is a ruse, of completely breaking apart the… co-operation,” he said.

“On the other hand, if we’re able to work it out today and have a complete understanding of what is happening and then agreement on (the) way forward, it could actually open up some possibilities.”

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said the UN supported such corridors in principle and was asking Russia for more details on how they would work.

“Our suggestion to Russia is to actually leave the corridors being established at their initiative to us,” Mr de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.

“The UN and humanitarian partners know what to do.”

He echoed calls from the UN’s Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, for a 48-hour truce to allow aid into the east of the city.

“How can you expect people to want to walk through a corridor, thousands of them, while there is shelling, bombing fighting?” Mr de Mistura asked.

He said the UN was “in principle and in practice in favour of humanitarian corridors under the right circumstances” but said Russia needed to provide more information on how the system would work.

He reiterated that civilians who left should do so only through their own choice.

The UN said on Monday that food supplies in Aleppo were expected to run out in mid-August and many medical facilities continued to be attacked.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said the three corridors for civilians and unarmed fighters would have medical posts and food handouts.

The fourth corridor, in the direction of Castello Road, would be for armed militants, he said.

The Syrian Observatory said on Friday that seven children were among the 28 killed in the coalition air strike on al-Ghandour village near Manbij.

The US confirmed air strikes took place near Manbij on Thursday and said it was investigating claims of civilian casualties.

Manbij is controlled by the so-called Islamic State group but encircled by Kurdish-led forces who are advancing with the support of coalition air strikes.

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