Thursday 27 July 2017

Premature babies' unit bombed in Aleppo

A photograph was released of the premature babies in a civilian home after they had been evacuated from the hospital in eastern Aleppo, Syria.
A photograph was released of the premature babies in a civilian home after they had been evacuated from the hospital in eastern Aleppo, Syria.

May Bulman

Premature babies in Aleppo have been removed from their incubators after air strikes destroyed hospitals across the city, prompting condemnation of the Syrian government and Russia by the US and the UN.

Harrowing video footage shows tiny babies being removed from their incubators in a smoke-filled ward, with nurses reduced to tears as they detach the tubing providing support and wrap the babies in blankets.

A photograph provided by a Syrian journalist shows premature babies later lying under a blanket on the floor - apparently in a civilian house - with medical tubes around them as a nurse tries to provide them with some form of support in a bid to keep them alive.

The children's hospital was destroyed on Thursday on the third day of a renewed assault by the Syrian regime and Russia against opposition-held districts in Aleppo.

Four other hospitals in the east of the city and the surrounding rebel-held countryside have also been hit and damaged since the offensive began on Tuesday, with Syria's health directorate and the World Health Organisation reporting that all hospitals in the besieged part of the city are now out of service.

The death toll has reached at least 92 people since the start of the offensive, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least 27 people, including children, were killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday alone in intense air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery rounds, it said. The death toll is expected to rise due to the number of wounded.

Children are evacuated after their school was hit by shelling by rebels in government-held western Aleppo. Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters
Children are evacuated after their school was hit by shelling by rebels in government-held western Aleppo. Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters

Saturday's bombardment destroyed rescue and medical facilities in eastern Aleppo, while schools in the area, many of which operate from basements due to frequent attacks, announced they would be closed on Saturday and yesterday "for the safety of students and teachers, after the barbarous aerial strikes".

"People went to sleep to the sound of bombardment and awoke to the sound of bombardment," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of The Observatory told AFP. "There's barely a neighbourhood that has been spared."

Yasser Al-rahil, journalist and member of the Revolutionary Forces of Syria media office, who provided the photograph of the babies, said the bombardment of hospitals was resulting in high numbers of injured people dying in the hours after they are hurt. He said: "We have counted more than 2,000 artillery shells and nearly 250 air strikes since midnight on Friday, which have left 28 dead and 150 wounded.

"The number of people dead is increasing due to the fact that many of the wounded are in a serious condition and there is no adequate treatment. All hospitals in the liberated areas are out of service as a result of systematic shelling over the past two days, so the wounded are being treated anywhere available away from the bombing." Following the latest assaults by the regime the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned "heinous" bombings of hospitals, warning the regime and its Russian backers they are responsible for long-term consequences.

Ms Rice said: "The United States condemns in the strongest terms these horrific attacks against medical infrastructure and humanitarian aid workers. There is no excuse for these heinous actions.

"The Syrian regime and its allies, Russia in particular, bears responsibly for the immediate and long-term consequences these actions have caused in Syria and beyond."

In response to the statement, Mr Al-rahil said: "Civilians in eastern Aleppo are tired of words from the international community. They want Russia and the Assad regime to stop bombing them."

Two top UN officials said they were "extremely saddened and appalled by the recent escalation in fighting".

Humanitarian co-ordinator for Syria Ali al-Za'atari and regional humanitarian co-ordinator Kevin Kennedy also said they had shared a plan to deliver aid, and evacuate the sick and wounded from east Aleppo. "It is imperative all parties agree to the plan and allow us to secure immediate, safe and unimpeded access to provide relief to those most in need," they said.

Both Russia and Assad's government have denied deliberately targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure during the war, which began in 2011 and was joined by Russia's air force in September 2015.

The charity Doctors Without Borders said there had been more than 30 hits on hospitals in eastern Aleppo since early July and that medical supplies had been "depleted" with "no possibility of sending more supplies in". (© Independent.co.uk)

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