Suspected Russian strikes hit near Turkish border

Activists say hospital in Latakia province suffers damage, amid concerns that many of Moscow’s targets are civilians.

latakia photo
No casualties were reported in Saturday’s strike at the hospital in the village of Barnas [Ahmad Haj Bakri/ Al Jazeera]

Russian warplanes have launched several air strikes in the Syrian province of Latakia near the Turkish border, including one that reportedly hit near a hospital, activists have told Al Jazeera.

No casualties were reported in Saturday’s strike at the hospital in the village of Barnas, in Syria’s northwest.

The sounds that we are hearing from the Russian strikes are 10 times stronger than from the usual Syrian strikes.

by Osman Soufi, an activist in the suburbs of Latakia

“Two rockets fell near the hospital. Barnas hospital suffered material damage only,” Ahmad Haj Bakri, an activist in Latakia told Al Jazeera.

The hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) before it was handed over to local medical groups more than a year ago.

An MSF official confirmed to Al Jazeera that the hospital was hit without assigning responsibility to any side.

“We understand that one of the rockets hit about 50 metres away from the hospital and damaged the building. The hospital was evacuated and no casualties [were] reported,” Yazan al-Saadi, a regional MSF communication officer, told Al Jazeera.

The attack came amid accusations by Western officials and activists on the ground that many of Moscow’s targets since the beginning of its campaign on Wednesday were civilian, a claim that Moscow denies.

Civilians killed

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in the UK, said: “At least 39 civilians and 14 fighters killed in four days of Russian air strikes.”

Barnas is located north of the coastal city of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been receiving support from Moscow since the eruption of a rebellion in March 2011 against his rule.

Some of the mountainous areas in the suburbs of Latakia are under the control of rebels, including Barnas, which is held by a loose rebel coalition that includes the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

Other air strikes on Saturday were reported on the village of Oubeen and on Yamadiya displacement camps, both at the Turkish border.

“The Russian sorties are ongoing,” Osman Soufi, an activist in the suburbs of Latakia, told Al Jazeera.

“The sounds that we are hearing from the Russian strikes are 10 times stronger than from the usual Syrian strikes,” he said.

In Idlib, a suspected Russian air strike hit Al Jazeera Arabic’s team and the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets. Issam al-Saleh, a volunteer with the White Helmets, was killed during the attack.

‘Recipe for disaster’

Over the past two days, Russian jets also hit areas in the suburbs of Hama and Idlib, areas under the control of rebel groups.


Russia said the aerial campaign was aimed against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and other “terrorist organisations”.

However, the suburbs of Latakia, Idlib and Hama have no ISIL presence.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, US President Barack Obama said Russian action in Syria was a “recipe for disaster”.

Obama said Russia was failing to distinguish between ISIL fighters and more moderate rebels in Syria.

The United States and its allies have condemned Russia, accusing it of seeking to buttress Assad under cover of a claimed assault on ISIL.

The US-led coalition, which has been running an aerial campaign against ISIL since last year, said on Saturday that they targeted fighters in 27 air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday.

Russian defence ministry on Saturday said its air force made over 20 flights in Syria in the past 24 hours and targeted nine ISIL objects and released a video showing what it said was a Su-34 destroying an ISIL command centre near Raqqa using concrete-piercing bombs.

Source: Al Jazeera