ALEPPO (Syria) • The largest hospital in rebel-held east Aleppo was bombed yesterday for the second time in days as Syrian government forces pressed a Russian-backed offensive to retake the entire city.
The offensive, announced on Sept 22, has seen dozens of civilians killed and residential buildings flattened in the east, where an estimated 250,000 people live under government siege.
The biggest hospital in east Aleppo was hit by two barrel bombs yesterday, said the medical organisation that supports it, as the situation for civilians grows increasingly dire. "Two barrel bombs hit the M10 hospital and there were reports of a cluster bomb as well," said Mr Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).
The strike caused at least one death and several injuries, and put the hospital out of service, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors the war.
Mr Sahloul said a small group of patients and doctors were inside the hospital when the bombardment began and remain trapped there.
Their perpetrators will be held to account. France is mobilising at the Security Council as we speak to put a stop to this unacceptable tragedy.
FOREIGN MINISTER JEAN-MARC AYRAULT
M10 had already been hit on Wednesday along with the second-largest hospital in the area, known as M2, in what UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced as "war crimes". That bombardment heavily damaged the two facilities and left only six fully-functional hospitals in the city's east, according to SAMS.
France condemned the bombing , saying the shelling of healthcare structures and workers in the besieged Syrian city were war crimes. "Their perpetrators will be held to account," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement. "France is mobilising at the Security Council as we speak to put a stop to this unacceptable tragedy," he added.
Russian war planes struck rebel-held areas north of Aleppo yesterday as the army shelled the besieged old quarter in a major offensive, said rebels and a monitoring group. Yesterday's air strikes focused on major supply lines into rebel-held areas - the Castello Road and Malah district - while fighting raged in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood, the front line to the north of Aleppo's Old City.
Rebels say Syrian troops backed by fresh reinforcements from Iranian-backed militias were struggling to make any gains in a ground offensive in a key frontline in the old city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy bombardment by government forces and "back and forth" fighting in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone for a third day on Friday, with Russia's top diplomat saying Moscow was ready to consider more ways to normalise the situation in Aleppo.
But Mr Lavrov criticised Washington's failure to separate moderate rebel groups from those the Russians call terrorists, which had allowed forces led by the group formerly known as the Nusra Front to violate the US-Russian truce agreed on Sept 9.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS