7 killed in strike on Syria hospital: Aid group

An image provided by the Doctors Without Borders charity group showing the destruction at a hospital it supports in Idlib province in northern Syria. It said the hospital was hit by missiles at least four times.
An image provided by the Doctors Without Borders charity group showing the destruction at a hospital it supports in Idlib province in northern Syria. It said the hospital was hit by missiles at least four times.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BEIRUT • Air strikes destroyed a hospital in northern Syria yesterday, killing at least seven people, according to Doctors Without Borders - also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) - the international medical charity that supports the facility.

It said the hospital was hit by missiles at least four times, with at least two sets of attacks coming within a few minutes of each other.

"There were at least seven deaths among the personnel and the patients, and at least eight MSF personnel have disappeared, and we don't know if they are alive," Dr Mego Terzian, president of MSF France, told Reuters.

Both Russian and Syrian warplanes operate over the area, in the insurgent-held Idlib province.

It was the second time in a week that a hospital working with the charity was hit.

It said an affiliated hospital was bombed in Daraa province in southern Syria on Feb 9.

"This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms," MSF head of mission Massimiliano Rebaudengo said of yesterday's strike on its affiliated hospital in the town of Maarat al-Noaman in Idlib.

Deliberate attacks on medical facilities are forbidden under international law.

The hospital had 30 beds, 54 staff, two operating rooms, clinics and an emergency room, and its destruction leaves 40,000 people without medical care, it said.

Russian officials have said their country's air strikes do not target civilians and have not killed any.

But the United States and allied insurgent groups say that Moscow has bombed indiscriminately.

Syrian anti-government monitoring groups say that Russian strikes have been the largest single cause of deaths in the war this year, and that they have killed hundreds of civilians, hitting schools, medical facilities and residential areas.

The strike came amid days of escalation along the Syria-Turkey border, despite the US and Russia having agreed on Thursday in Munich to work towards a ceasefire, said to be starting by the end of this week.

Also yesterday, residents of Azaz, in northern Aleppo, reported that a hospital there was struck by what some described as ballistic missiles. Turkish officials blamed Russia.

Azaz is one of the most complex theatres of the war in Syria, with combatants from many sides of the war clashing, sometimes with putative allies.

Turkey has fired artillery into Syria, saying it is aiming at Kurdish-led forces that have taken territory from Turkish-backed fighters.

MSF has found its hospitals increasingly coming under fire in conflict zones.

American air strikes killed 42 people at an affiliated hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last year.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline '7 killed in strike on Syria hospital: Aid group'. Print Edition | Subscribe