Syria: Artillery shells hit charity-backed hospital in Idlib

Save the Children-supported health facility attacked in Syria, wounding seven people including a doctor.

    Health facilities have repeatedly been targeted in the rebel-held Idlib region [File: Shafak Charity Organization via AP]
    Health facilities have repeatedly been targeted in the rebel-held Idlib region [File: Shafak Charity Organization via AP]

    An artillery attack has hit a hospital in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, wounding seven people with one in a critical condition, according to a UK-based charity.

    Save the Children said artillery shells struck the southern wing of a health centre it supports on Thursday in the town of Maarat al-Numan in northwestern Syria.

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    About 60 patients, including children, were in the facility at the time of the attack, according to the NGO. A doctor was among the wounded, it added, without specifying who was behind the shelling.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian government attacks hit the town of Maarat al-Numan on Thursday, without specifying casualties.

    "The Maraat al-Numan health compound served up to 300,000 people living in the area, with on average 200 visitors daily, offering critical help to hundreds of children and their families," Save the Children said in a statement.

    It said the attack put the facility out of service, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear.

    "Yet again, civilians are paying the price of a long, deadly conflict," Save the Children spokesman Amjad Yamin said.

    The rebel-held province has endured a Russian-backed bombing campaign that aims to recapture the last remaining opposition stronghold in Syria.

    The four-month-long offensive has killed nearly 1,000 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory.

    Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been displaced by violence in the Idlib region since the end of April, the United Nations said. Half the population in northwest Syria has been uprooted at least once with some being displaced up to seven times over the eight-year-long conflict, according to Save the Children.

    The UN early in August established a board of inquiry to investigate the bombing of United Nations-supported medical facilities in the northwest of the country.

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    A ceasefire announced by Moscow on August 31 has reduced air strikes, but skirmishes on the ground persist.

    "The area has been relatively calm since the announcement of the ceasefire, and the displaced populations had started returning. Now this may send them back," Yamin said.

    The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions since erupting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies