Skip to main content

Men and civil defence members look for survivors after an air strike on a hospital in the town of Millis, Syria Aug. 6, 2016.AMMAR ABDULLAH/Reuters

A hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and specializing in pediatrics in a rebel-held northern Syria province has been destroyed in a series of airstrikes over the weekend that killed 13 people, including four staff and five children, the international medical charity said Monday.

The group, known by its French acronym MSF, said that two of four airstrikes directly hit the hospital in Millis, in the northern province of Idlib and put it out of service. Six other hospital staff members were wounded in the broad daylight airstrikes Saturday. The bombing of the hospital that serves as a reference centre specializing in pediatrics also destroyed the operating theatre, intensive care unit, pediatric department, ambulances and a generator, the charity said. It was not clear which government had conducted the airstrikes and the MSF statement did not specify.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. has not conducted any airstrikes near Idlib.

MSF said the hospital attack deprives 70,000 people in Millis and surrounding areas of essential medical care. The hospital, supported by MSF since 2014, used to receive 250 patients per day, many of them women and children

"The direct bombing of another hospital in Syria is an outrage," says Silvia Dallatomasina, medical manager of MSF operations in northwestern Syria. She called for an immediate end to attacks on hospitals, pointing that four out of five UN Security Council members are participants in the war in Syria.

Hospitals, mostly in rebel-held areas, are regularly attacked. In July alone, the U.N. said it has recorded 44 attacks on health facilities in Syria. Syria's government and Russia, a major ally that has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since September, deny targeting health facilities.

In recent days, a number of attacks were reported on medical facilities amid increased violence, and ultimately increased pressure on the health facilities, in northern Syria.

MSF said two facilities it supports in Idlib, controlled by insurgents, have reported nine mass-influxes of wounded in July, that left 466 wounded and 37 dead. In the first six-months of 2016, the same facilities reported only seven mass-influxes of wounded, with a total 294 wounded and 33 dead.\

Meanwhile at an informal Security Council meeting Monday organized by the United States, experts painted a graphic portrait of barrel bombings, attacks on medical facilities, chemical weapons use and the ongoing suffering inside the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, shaming the international community for its inaction.

Dr. Zaher Shaloul, a Syrian-American doctor from Chicago, said medical facilities in eastern Aleppo are routinely targeted, creating a situation where people are dying from treatable conditions for lack of medical care and basic supplies.

Shaloul, who last visited Aleppo in July, said he asked a nurse there what she wanted most from the United Nations and she replied that she wanted help evacuating a 10-year-old girl named Shahd who was wounded by a barrel bomb and is now dying due to a shortage of medicine.

"We don't need condemnations, prayers or pointing fingers, we had enough of that. I ask you to meet the people of Aleppo and see them as humans. I have one request, besides saving Shahd, visit Aleppo yourself and meet with its doctors, nurses and patients. If three doctors from Chicago were able to do that, you can do it," Shaloul told diplomats.

Shahloul then showed slides showing women and child victims, one of them a child he said was injured in a chlorine gas attack.

He said only 35 physicians remain in Aleppo where 15 health care facilities had been attacked in July alone.

Currently, more than 250,000 people are besieged by government forces in the eastern part of Aleppo, a city that has been divided into rebel and government-controlled parts since 2012. The government completely closed the main road into the rebel-held areas of Aleppo on July 17, effectively cutting off all supplies and exit routes.

Rebels breached the Syrian government siege on opposition neighbourhoods in Aleppo on Saturday, opening a corridor in the south and marking a major military breakthrough, but observers said civilians still don't have a safe route out because of intense airstrikes and shelling in the area.

Abdullah Nawhlu, a member of Syrian Civil Defence, a neutral and impartial humanitarian group, speaking by video from Aleppo, described a dire situation with rapidly dwindling stocks of food and fuel, not to mention medical supplies.

"If the siege of Aleppo continues ... greater humanitarian disasters will happen, as there will be no medicine for the injured and no flour for people to bake with," Nawhlu said as a constant barrage of gunfire could be heard in the background. "We are speaking about a siege of 350,000 people, not 10 or 50 or 100 people. We're talking about 350,000 humans, a huge humanitarian disaster that will shame humanitarian organizations forever."

Interact with The Globe