Several dead as airstrike hits hospitals and school in Syria

Photo: One of the hit hospitals in Idlib province, Syria

Two hospitals and a school building in northern Syria were struck on Monday morning, leaving at least 22 people dead, and eight others are missing and presumed dead, according to reports.

Fifteen people were killed when a hospital and a school building that was housing displaced people were struck in Azaz, in Syria’s Aleppo province, according to a hospital worker on the scene.
Up to 40 other people were wounded.

A hospital employee known as Moudhar said that staff members were evacuating the wounded after the first strike on the Women and Children’s Hospital when the complex and a road leading to the Turkish border were struck again. Women and children were among the dead, he said.
Another projectile hit a nearby school building housing displaced people, he added.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strikes.

Speaking in Kiev, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed Russia for the strikes in Azaz, which is close to the Turkish border, claiming Moscow had targeted the complex with ballistic missiles fired from the Caspian Sea.
Moscow did not immediately respond to the accusation.

In a separate attack, a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders at Maarat al-Numan in Syria’s Idlib province was destroyed after being struck four times within minutes, the medical humanitarian organization said.
Images from the scene showed the hospital reduced to mostly twisted metal and other rubble.

At least seven people were killed and eight others were missing, and presumed dead, after the attack, the organization said in a statement.
The dead consisted of five patients, a caretaker and a hospital guard, while eight staff members were missing. Patients were also missing, but their current numbers were unknown, said the statement.

The organization had earlier given the number of dead as nine.

Doctors Without Borders believed that the strike had been carried out by the Syrian government-led coalition, a spokeswoman said. Syria’s government has not responded to the accusation.

The statement said about 15 other houses and buildings in populated zones were hit in the area about the same time.

“This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,” said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission.

“The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict,” he said.

The 30-bed hospital had 54 staff members, two operating areas, an outpatient department and an emergency room.

The outpatient department treated around 1,500 patients a month, the emergency room carried out about 1,100 consultations a month, and around 140 operations were performed in the operating areas, the statement said.

Airstrikes earlier this month killed three people and wounded at least six at a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in Daraa governorate, southern Syria, on February 5, the aid group said.

Northern Syria has been the scene of intense fighting recently, with Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air power, pursuing a major offensive on the key city Aleppo, and Turkey bombarding Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, near Azaz over the weekend.

Turkey said it was a response to shelling from YPG positions.

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Sunday that his country had no intention of sending ground troops into Syria, amid international concern about Ankara’s actions.

The United States and France called on Ankara to halt the bombardment, which killed two Kurdish fighters and wounded seven others, according to a London-based monitoring group, and Syria complained to the U.N. Security Council about the Turkish shelling.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group, while the United States backs it in the fight against ISIS.

Western powers have also been critical of Russia’s actions in Syria, saying it was undermining the prospects of implementing a recently agreed upon cessation of hostilities by bombing civilians. Moscow denies the allegations.

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