U.S. Accuses Russian-Backed Assad Regime of Striking Hospitals in Syria

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Airstrikes hit four hospitals and a school building in northern Syria Monday, killing at least 50 people, according to various media reports.

Eight others are missing and presumed dead. The Russian-backed Syrian government forces have been accused of carrying out the airstrikes.

Citing an unnamed hospital worker on the scene, CNN reports that 15 people were killed and up to 40 others were injured, including women and children, when airstrikes struck the Women and Children’s Hospital and a school building that was housing displaced people in Azaz, located in Syria’s Aleppo province.

Another medical facility located in Syria’s Idlib province, about 62 miles away from the Women and Children’s Hospital, was also stuck in a separate attack, adds CNN.

“At least seven people were killed and eight are missing and presumed dead following a Monday morning attack in northern Syria that destroyed a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),” reports the humanitarian organization.

“The hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan, Idlib Province, was hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to staff from the hospital,” it adds. “Five patients, one patient caretaker, and a hospital guard were killed. Eight staff members are missing and presumed dead. Other patients are still missing, but their numbers are currently unknown.”

Two other hospitals operated by the United Nations, for a total of four, were also bombed Monday, reports The New York Times.

“As always, caught in the middle are civilians, with four hospitals bombed in a single day on Monday and Turkey and the Syrian insurgents accusing Russia of targeting them deliberately to drive them out of the area, ” notes the report. “Two of the hospitals were supported by Unicef, including a pediatric and maternity hospital, and at least 50 people were killed in all of the attacks, including children, said Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesman.”

The October 2015 U.S. bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan operated by Doctors Without Borders, known officially as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sparked international outrage, prompting President Obama and the Pentagon to issue an apology for the mistaken attack that killed at least 30 people.

U.S. Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of American and international troops in Afghanistan, said the bombing of the hospital was “the direct result of human error compounded by systems and procedural failures,” noting that military personnel who were closely involved in the bombing have been suspended.

The United States, Turkey, Amnesty International, and Doctors Without Borders have accused Assad troops, backed by Russia, of carrying out the attacks.

“The United States condemns airstrikes conducted in and around Aleppo today against innocent civilian targets, including a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] and the Women’s and Children’s hospital in Azaz city,” declared the State Department in a statement.

“That the Assad regime and its supporters would continue these attacks, without cause and without sufficient regard for international obligations to safeguard innocent lives, flies in the face of the unanimous calls by the [International Syria Support Group] ISSG, including in Munich, to avoid attacks on civilians and casts doubt on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people,” it adds.

Echoing the State Department, Amnesty International called on Russian and Syrian forces to stop deliberate attacks on hospitals, clinics, and medical personnel.

“Russian and Syrian forces know full well that deliberate attacks on medical facilities are war crimes. All parties to the conflict must cease such horrific attacks, stop destroying medical facilities and allow medical workers to carry out their life-saving work without fear of being killed or injured in the line of duty,” Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

MSF president Mego Terzian told Reuters “either the [Syrian] government or Russia” was responsible for carrying out the strikes that destroyed the MSF facility in Idlib province.

Riad Haddad, Syria’s ambassador to Russia, accused the U.S.-led coalition forces of the attack on the MSF facility in Idlib, an allegation that the Pentagon has denied.

“The destruction of the MSF-supported facility appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure,” said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF Head of Mission, adding, “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.”

Last September, Russia began launching airstrikes in support of the Assad regime’s offensive against rebels.

“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,” reports CNN.

CNN acknowledges that Moscow has not commented on the attacks.


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