Syrian government attacks 2 hospitals, bread line in Aleppo

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2016 9:45 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — Government shelling and airstrikes in Syria's eastern rebel-held Aleppo landed near a bread distribution center and two hospitals Wednesday, killing seven people and putting at least one of the medical facilities completely out of service, activists and medics said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center said six people were killed while outside the bread distribution center, which was hit in the Maadi neighborhood in the east of the city.

Aref al-Aref, a nurse at M2, one of the hospitals, said government shelling hit the bread distribution center before dawn in the neighborhood close to city center. As the wounded were brought into the hospital, also in Maadi neighborhood, one of the five shells fired in a sequence fell at the hospital's emergency entrance, killing one person accompanying a wounded patient, al-Aref said.

Al-Aref said the shelling caused damage to the hospital and put parts of it out of service. Maintenance was underway to return to full operations. He said three hospital staff members were injured.

Later, an airstrike hit near M2 hospital, he said. No one was injured.

In another attack, an airstrike hit near a hospital in the northern part of the rebel-held area, cutting off electricity and water supplies. Mohammed Abu Rajab, head of M10 hospital, the largest of eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo, said the intensive care unit was most affected when the airstrike hit, as the generators and the oxygen supplies were knocked out.

Abu Rajab said the patients from ICU had to be moved to another facility, because the intensive care unit was unable to run. Maintenance was underway to return operations, he said. Water supplies and the hospital's fuel tanks were also hit, Abu Rajab said.

Footage from the hospital's power station showed fuel tanks, generators and oxygen cylinders damaged from the attack.

The Observatory said the neighborhood where M10 hospital is located has been targeted with warplanes, helicopters and artillery since early Wednesday.

"It hit when we were asleep. No one has slept since and we are exhausted," said Abu Rajab. He said authorities "know this facility and where it is very well," and it is one of the oldest and largest hospitals in Aleppo. No one was injured in the attack, he said.

Adham Sahloul of the U.S. based Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the two hospitals, said the two attacks on the medical facilities took place at the same time, suggesting they were deliberately targeted. He noted that it was believed earlier that airstrikes directly hit the hospital buildings, but in fact strikes and artillery fire destroyed the surrounding infrastructure. He said that while the two hospitals were not directly hit the attacks caused structural damage to both.

Sahloul said that one child who was in an ambulance died because he was not able to receive treatment during the chaos. Al-Aref could not confirm the child's death. Abu Rajab of M10 hospital earlier said two people had been killed because they could not receive treatment after the hospitals were attacked but did not provide further details.

The international charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, said in a tweet Wednesday the two facilities were put out of service.

The closures leave eastern Aleppo with six functioning hospitals, only three of which are capable of dealing with emergencies, Sahloul said.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia have been accused of targeting medical facilities in rebel-held areas. The U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights has recorded 382 attacks on medical facilities and hospitals throughout Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. Of those, 293 were carried out by government forces and 16 were conducted by Russian warplanes, it said.

Hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been overwhelmed with casualties since the start of a government offensive last week in the wake of the collapse of the cease-fire. MSF, which supports all the hospitals in eastern Aleppo, said doctors it supports in rebel-held areas have reported receiving more than 270 bodies and 800 wounded patients since last Wednesday.

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This story has been corrected to show that the first hospital to be affected by shelling and airstrikes was M1, and not M2 hospital.