Sunday 15 December 2019

'Not terrorists, just babies': Video reveals devastation caused by 'deliberate Russian air strikes' on children's hospital

The strikes come days after Russia and other world powers agreed to a limited cessation of hostilities

Alexandra Sims

Video footage taken moments after a missile hit a hospital in northern Syria in what has been called by charities a "deliberate" attack has revealed the devastation wreaked by the air strikes on Syria's civilian population.

The video, which was taken by the French-based Syria Charity, shows distressed newborn babies crying in their incubators after a bomb hit the hospital in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border on Monday killing at least five people and wounding dozens.

The hospital is one of two hit in suspected Russian air strikes in northern Syria. At least 20 people were killed and dozens wounded.

At least seven people were killed after a hospital in Marat Al Numan, Idlib was also hit. Eight members of staff have also disappeared - it is not known if they are dead or alive.

In another village, an air raid also hit a school, killing seven more.

The 30-bed hospital in Idlib was hit four times in two series of at least two attacks within a few minutes of each other on Monday, MSF said.

Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF’s Head of Mission, told the Independent: “This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.

“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.

In the footage taken inside the hospital in Azaz, babies’ cries accompany a high-pitched alarm as medical staff rush to deal with the immediate after-effects of the strike.

Machines, disrupted from the bombing, hang from the walls above the infants and debris litters the floor around the incubators.

The charity’s video is accompanied with the caption: “First moments after the bombing. Not terrorists, or fighters, just babies.”

Pictures shared on Twitter from the charity show the damage done to the hospital, which has been left crumbling.

Syria Charity has operated in the country since 2011 and provide medical services and food packages for civilians and run an orphan sponsorship programme.

The hospital in Azaz has been operating since February 2015 and mainly provides pediatric and obstetric care, it has seen almost 3,000 births.

Anfal Seddik, a spokeswoman from Syria Charity, told the Independent 15 medical staff had been injured in the bombing. Two have been seriously wounded with one being transported to Turkey for further treatment and another undergoing surgery.

She also confirmed 13 local civilians had been killed.

"There has been a lot of damage to medical equipment, some beyond repair," said Ms Seddik. "We were originally a 34-bed facility with more than a hundred staff, but now, since another bombing in December, we are down to 18 beds only."

Much of the equipment seen in the video, including machines used to give oxygen to new-born infants, has been damaged. The hospital is now completely empty due to the extent of the destruction.

"Several thousands of patients use the hospital every month [...] so this will affect the care we can give to thousands of people."

People on the ground as well as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have attributed the air strike to the Russian government.

Ms Seddik added: "The air strikes definitely came from the Russian government because they are sophisticated missiles."

"The Syrian government has no such equipment. However, the Russian government and Syrian authorities are both incriminated here, they are both responsible for what is happening."

Ms Seddik believes the air strikes are worsening and staff are bracing themselves for further bombings. As a result they say they are making plans to evacuate the hospital for fear of further damage.

"There has been an agreement for a cessation of the hostilities, however still the Russians have been striking, in places were there are no terrorists, no soldiers , just civilians," Me seddik said, referencing the Syrian peace deal agreed on Thursday.

"The people on the ground are really traumatised they are frightened, the patients, the mothers, the babies. Everybody is really shocked."

The strikes come days after Russia and other world powers agreed to a limited cessation of hostilities after talks in Munich.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in northern Syria under the cover of Russian air strikes over the past week. The ground offensive has been focused on the northern province of Aleppo.

Independent News Service

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