Deadly air strikes hit hospitals in northern Syria

At least 21 people killed in suspected Russian raids on three hospitals and a school in provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.

MSF hospital Idlib
MSF says destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services [MSF]

At least 21 people have been killed and dozens others injured in air strikes and rocket attacks on a school and three hospitals in separate locations in northern Syria, Al Jazeera has learned.

In the deadliest incident, at least 14 people were killed and about 30 injured when air strikes and rocket artillery damaged parts of a hospital in the town of Azaz in Aleppo province, the media office at the rebel-controlled Aleppo local council said on Monday.

In the same raid, a school where refugees were sheltering was also hit. No death toll has been confirmed.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a news conference in Kiev on Monday that a Russian ballistic missile hit the school and hospital in Azaz.

The head of the media office, Abu Thaer al-Halabi, told Al Jazeera that a section of a highway that facilitates the main supply line for humanitarian aid to the region was destroyed in the raids.

Halabi also said the strikes were carried out by Russian jets.

MSF hospital hit

Meanwhile, two strikes on Monday morning targeted a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, killing at least seven people.

The medical humanitarian organisation said the hospital was hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other.

Five patients, a caretaker and a hospital guard were killed, MSF said.

Eight members of staff are missing, presumed dead, while other patients are also missing, but their numbers are currently unknown, the group added.

“There were at least seven deaths among the personnel and the patients, and at least eight MSF personnel have disappeared. We don’t know if they are alive,” Mego Terzian told the Reuters news agency, adding that he believed Russia or Syrian government forces were behind the attack.

Earlier, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine people, including a child, had been killed in the “presumably Russian” raids. 

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A spokesman for the Syria Civil Defence in Idlib confirmed that the hospital was hit but said four people were killed. 

“At least four people have been killed while several others have been injured. We expect the death toll to rise. There are doctors and MSF staff missing,” Radi said, without stating his full name. 

MSF's destroyed hospital in Idlib [Syria Civil Defence]
MSF’s destroyed hospital in Idlib [Syria Civil Defence]

At least 13 people were reportedly injured in the strikes, as rescue workers were trying to reach several people buried under the rubble. 

“Extreme damage has been caused to the hospital. Six floors have been almost reduced to rubble. This hospital is in an area previously surrounded by restaurants and has no rebel strongholds. It has been functioning for over a year now,” Radi said.

Also in Idlib province, another strike hit the National Hospital in Maarat Al-Nouman.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish town of Gaziantep near the Syria border, said:
“This is not the first time a hospital or a health facility has been targeted in Syria.

“What we understand is the facility in Idlib that was hit this morning was serving up to 40,000 people who live in what MSF called an active zone of conflict, so they will be denied health services,” she added.

“The health system in Syria as a whole really has all but collapsed and undoubtedly a very grim situation.”

Additional reporting by Al Jazeera’s  Diana Al Rifai 

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters