Deadly airstrikes hit hospitals, school in Syria

BEIRUT -- Airstrikes hit two hospitals and a school in northern Syria, killing and wounding dozens of people on Monday, according to opposition activists, who said the strikes were carried out by Russian warplanes supporting a major advance by government troops.

See Full Article

An airstrike in the province of Idlib destroyed a makeshift clinic supported by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, while in the neighbouring Aleppo province, a missile struck a children's hospital in the town of Azaz, killing at least five people and wounding dozens. A third air raid hit a school in a nearby village, killing seven and wounding others.

Doctors Without Borders -- also known by its French acronym MSF -- said in a statement that the hospital in the town of Maaret al-Numan was hit four times in at least two attacks that were minutes apart. It said at least seven people were killed and at least eight others were "missing, presumed dead."

"This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms," said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF's mission chief. "The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict."

The aid group said the hospital had 30 beds, 54 staff members, two operating theatres, an outpatients department and an emergency room. MSF has been supporting the hospital since September and covered all its needs, including providing medical supplies and running costs, it said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian warplanes targeted the makeshift hospital, destroying it and killing nine people. The opposition group, which tracks both sides of the conflict through sources on the ground, said dozens were wounded in the attack.

Syrian troops have been advancing in the north under the cover of Russian airstrikes in recent weeks. The offensive has been focused on Aleppo province, where troops are trying to cut rebel supply lines to Turkey and surround rebel-held parts of Aleppo city, once Syria's largest.

On Monday, Syrian state TV reported that pro-government gunmen have entered western parts of the northern town of Tel Rifaat, where they were fighting "fierce battles' against insurgents. Tel Rifaat is a major stronghold of militants fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

Opposition activist Yahya al-Sobeih, speaking by phone from Maaret al-Numan, said "the entire building has collapsed on the ground. He said five people were killed near the MSF clinic and "all members of the medical team inside are believed to be dead."

Paramedics and volunteers were working on removing the rubble, he added. The four-story building was once a cement company, but had served as a makeshift clinic during the war, al-Sobeih said.

The missile attack in Azaz, near the Turkish border, killed five people at the hospital, including three children and a pregnant woman, and wounded more than 30, the Observatory said. Activist Bahaa al-Halaby, who is based in the northern city of Aleppo, said the hospital was struck by a missile, and that 10 people were killed.

Abdulrahman Al-Hassan, chief liaison officer at the Syrian Civil Defence, a group of first responders known as the "White Helmets," said the women's hospital in Azaz was hit by two surface-to-surface missiles. He added that some 10 people were killed and many were wounded.

"We think it is Russia because the photos of the missiles have Russian language (and) because we haven't seen this kind (of missiles) before the Russian intervention," he said.

Russia has been a key ally of Assad throughout the five-year uprising and civil war, and began launching airstrikes to support his forces on Sept. 30.

In Turkey, the private Dogan news agency reported that more than 30 of those wounded in Russian airstrikes in Azaz, primarily children, were transferred to a hospital in southern Turkey. It showed footage of ambulances arriving at the Kilis State hospital, medics unloading children on stretchers and a girl wrapped in a blanket.

"They hit the school, they hit the school," wailed a Syrian woman who was unloaded from an ambulance onto a wheelchair.

The Observatory and al-Halaby said an air raid struck a school in the village of Kaljibrin, near Azaz. Al-Halaby said the raid killed seven people and wounded others. The Observatory said five were killed.

Meanwhile in Brussels, European Union officials on Monday called on Turkey to halt its military action in Syria after Turkish forces shelled positions held by a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia over the weekend.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that "only a few days ago, all of us including Turkey, sitting around the table, decided steps to de-escalate and have a cessation of hostilities."

She said more fighting "is obviously not what we expect."

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said "we have the plan for a cessation of hostilities and I think everybody has to abide by that."

Syria's main Kurdish faction, the People's Protection Units or YPG, has been highly effective in combating the Islamic State group, but Turkey views it as a threat because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday said the cross-border shelling has succeeded in halting a Kurdish advance on Azaz and vowed the "harshest reaction" if the YPG march on the town again.

Kurdish-led forces had recently gained ground along the border with Turkey at the expense of Syrian rebels, who have been struggling to hold ground amid the massive Russian-backed government offensive.

Also Monday, Syria's pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV said one of its correspondents was wounded in a missile attack in the coastal province of Latakia. It said journalist Mazem Mohammed was in stable conditions.

------

Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Brussels and Dominique Soguel in Istanbul, Turkey contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Moroccan premier forms government, ending 5-month crisis

    World News CTV News
    RABAT, Morocco -- Morocco's new Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani has succeeded in building a governing coalition, ending a five-month political deadlock after just eight days in office. El Othmani, 61, of the Islamist Party for Justice and Development, or PJD, announced Saturday in a press conference in Rabat that an "agreement has been reached" with six political parties to form a coalition government. Source
  • Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 police officers

    World News CTV News
    BENI, Congo -- A Congolese militia group has decapitated 42 policemen after ambushing them in an increasingly violent region where the U.N. is searching for missing American and Swedish investigators, a local official said Saturday. Source
  • Suspect in fatal shooting on Las Vegas Strip surrenders after standoff

    World News CBC News
    The suspect in a fatal shooting on the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday surrendered to police after barricading himself inside a bus. The standoff began after a report of shots fired on Las Vegas Boulevard in the heart of the Strip. Source
  • Suspect shooting at passing trucks on B.C. highway: RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -- RCMP say they've received numerous calls from truck drivers reporting that someone shot at their vehicles on a B.C. highway. Police say the incidents occurred over an eight-hour period starting Friday night on Highway 97 between Houston and 100 Mile House in the province's central and northern Interior. Source
  • 1 dead on Vegas Strip shooting, gunman barricaded on bus

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- A gunman barricaded himself inside a bus Saturday along the Las Vegas Strip after a shooting that left one person dead, officials said. The attack prompted a partial closure of the busy boulevard. Source
  • Security, parking, garbage irk Ivanka Trump's D.C. neighbours

    World News CBC News
    ?Residents of a posh Washington neighbourhood say Ivanka Trump and her family don't make for very good neighbours, taking up much of the parking on an already crowded street and leaving trash bags at the curb for days. Source
  • Liberals must sell budget to premiers after 'challenging' health talks

    Canada News CBC News
    Liberal MPs stuck around Ottawa on a rare Saturday to hammer out a plan to sell their recent budget to the public in the coming weeks, but the government also will have to move past the bruising experienced during the health accord negotiations to get the premiers on board. Source
  • Elderly couple flying to Michigan taken to wrong gate, end up in N.Y.

    World News Toronto Sun
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 96-year-old woman and an 89-year-old man were wheeled to the wrong gate at a South Florida airport and ended up on a flight to upstate New York instead of Michigan. Helen Wheeker and her husband, George Nobel, ended up Ogdensburg, N.Y. Source
  • Self-driving Uber SUV hits vehicle in Arizona

    World News Toronto Sun
    TEMPE, Ariz. — Officials say a self-driving Uber SUV was operating on its own when it was struck by another vehicle making a left turn at an intersection in Arizona, where the company is testing autonomous vehicles. Source
  • Woman ordered to return dog after taking off with pair of pooches post-breakup

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- A woman who took off with two dogs she had shared with her ex-boyfriend has been ordered to return one of the pooches after a bitter ownership dispute. Matthew MacDonald told a Nova Scotia small claims court that he purchased the Yorkshire terriers while he was living with his "on-again, off-again" girlfriend Brittany Pearl in Fort McMurray, Alta. Source