Air raids target 4 hospitals in Syria's Aleppo

The medical care of over 200,000 desperate civilians has been jeopardised after overnight air strikes put four hospitals in Aleppo out of action.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A Syrian man reacts as rescuers look for victims under the rubble of a collapsed building following an air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Sakhur in the northern city of Aleppo on July 19, 2016.

Four hospitals in Aleppo, Syria were bombed by overnight air strikes, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday, jeopardising medical care for more than 200,000 desperate civilians in rebel-held areas.

The bombardment since Saturday has worsened the plight of residents of besieged eastern neighbourhoods of Syria's second city, where food and medical supplies are becoming increasingly scarce.

The hospitals, as well as a blood bank that was hit, were located in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood.

The Independent Doctor's Association (IDA), a group of Syrian doctors that supports clinics in Aleppo, said a two-day-old baby was killed in the children's hospital when his oxygen supply was cut after a raid during the early hours of Sunday.

It was the second strike on the same hospital in about nine hours, according to the IDA.

"After the second strike, we had to move him (the baby) downstairs to the bomb shelter, and that's why he died," said Malika, the head nurse at the children's hospital.

"The hospital is severely damaged and it's not the first time."

A Syrian civil defence volunteer carries a wounded child following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Qatirji in the northern city of Aleppo on July 23, 2016. Image: AFP

Footage posted by the IDA of the strike's aftermath showed agitated doctors carrying a tiny baby in a room lined with incubators, with sandbags piled high just outside the entrance.

All four hospitals were out of service on Sunday.

Opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo are regularly hit by air strikes by the regime and its key ally Russia.

According to the World Health Organisation, Syria was the most dangerous place for health care workers to operate last year, with 135 attacks on health facilities and workers in 2015.

'Decimation of Health Care'

A journalist in eastern Aleppo said heavy air strikes had resumed after a brief pause on Sunday morning.

The streets were empty except for ambulances speeding to the site of fresh bombing raids with their sirens wailing.

According to the IDA, five hospitals are left operating in eastern neighbourhoods.

The rest were devastated by a regime siege that took hold earlier this month.

"In addition to the siege-like conditions being endured by the residents of Aleppo after the last supply line was cut earlier this month, we are facing a major humanitarian disaster with medical care suspended," the IDA said.

"Besiegement and the decimation of health care constitute war crimes. We demand an immediate end to and accountability for the collective punishment the city faces."

An injured baby rests inside a field hospital after an airstrike in the rebel held Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria July 22, 2016. Image: Reuters

Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests across the country, but has since morphed into a complex multi-front war.

At least 280,000 people have been killed and more than half the population have been forced to flee their homes, as world powers are increasingly drawn into the conflict.

Repeated attempts -- particularly by the United States and regime ally Russia -- at securing a political settlement built on a teetering ceasefire have failed.

Moscow and Washington are nominally co-chairs of international efforts to bring President Bashar al-Assad's regime to the negotiating table with armed opposition groups.

The UN has set August as the target date for the resumption of talks.

Syria Ready For More Peace Talks

The Syrian regime expressed its readiness to engage in further peace talks with the opposition and to arrive at a political solution to end the five-year conflict.

"Syria ... is ready to continue the Syrian-Syrian dialogue without any preconditions ... and without foreign interference, with the support of the United Nations," state news agency SANA quoted an official in the foreign ministry as saying.

The UN hopes to convene a new round of intra-Syrian peace talks in Geneva in August, its Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said this week.

Previous rounds of talks this year broke down as fighting escalated, particularly around Aleppo, where government forces recently cut off the only road into rebel-held areas of the divided northern city.

The United States and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict, are to discuss an American proposal for closer military cooperation and intelligence sharing on Syria to combat extremist groups.

Secretary of State John Kerry said this month that Washington and Damascus ally Moscow had reached a common understanding on the steps needed to get Syria's peace process back on track.

TRTWorld and agencies