Saturday 3 December 2016

At least 14 dead after Russian air strike destroys Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in northern Syria

Published 15/02/2016 | 10:30

Heavy smoke rises from a location said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria. Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters
Heavy smoke rises from a location said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria. Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters
Smoke rises from a location said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria. Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters
Heavy smoke rises from a location said to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital in Marat al Numan, Idlib, Syria. Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks during an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Munich. Reuters/Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/Pool

A clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) has been destroyed by an air strike in northern Syria, a spokeswoman for an international aid agency has said.

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Seven Russian missiles struck a hospital in the northern Syrian town of Azaz on Monday, a Turkish security official said, adding the the civilian death toll to rise above 14.

Mirella Hodeib of Doctors Without Borders - also known by its French acronym MSF - said the airstrike destroyed the MSF-supported structure in the north-western town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province.

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

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian warplanes targeted the hospital, destroying it and killing nine people.

The Observatory, which tracks the casualties in Syria's five-year civil war, said dozens were also wounded in the airstrike.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in northern Syria under the cover of Russian airstrikes over the past week.

The ground offensive has been focused on the northern province of Aleppo while Monday's airstrike struck the clinic in the nearby Idlib province.

"The entire building has collapsed on the ground," said opposition activist Yahya al-Sobeih, speaking by telephone from Maaret al-Numan.

He added that five people were killed near the clinic and "all members of the medical team inside are believed to be dead".

An aid official said at least one patient died and nine Syrian staffers were missing.

Casualty figures are often sketchy and conflicting, and cannot be independently verified because of the inaccessibility of the conflict zones.

Meanwhile in Brussels, European Union officials called on Turkey to halt its military action in Syria after Turkish forces shelled positions held by a US-backed Kurdish militia over the weekend.

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that "only a few days ago, all of us including Turkey, sitting around the table decided steps to de-escalate and have a cessation of hostilities".

She said more fighting "is obviously not what we expect".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed a missile had also struck a children's hospital in a town in the north of the country, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens.

Activists said the missile hit the hospital in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing 10 and wounding more than 30.

Activist Bahaa al-Halaby, who is based in the northern city of Aleppo, said it was a ballistic missile. The Observatory says the dead include three children and a pregnant woman.

Reuters

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