Several killed as Syrian government artillery fire hit a hospital entrance in rebel-held northwest Syria, Turkey’s defence ministry and a war monitor said. The attack on Sunday on the town of Atareb in Aleppo’s countryside came despite a Russian-Turkish ceasefire since March 2020, supposedly to protect the wider rebel-held stronghold.
The shelling “hit the courtyard and main entrance of the hospital inside a cave, killing five civilians including a child and a hospital employee,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Eleven others were wounded including healthcare staff, said the Britain-based monitoring group’s head Rami Abdurrahman.
The Syrian Civil Defence – also known as the White Helmets – a volunteer search-and-rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, confirmed that the attack had killed five people.
It also said that at least nine medical personnel were injured, and had put the hospital “out-of-order”.
The hospital is located underground, a tactic used by the opposition to avoid being targeted in the conflict-prone area.
Targeting medical facilities
In a statement, the White Helmets said the attack is a “continuation of the regime and Russia’s systematic policy of targeting medical facilities and hospitals”.
As per an earlier report this month, the International Rescue Committee highlighted the ways in which the war in Syria has turned hospitals from places of shelter to danger zones.
Hospitals and clinics have been targeted and destroyed in cities across the country amid fighting between government forces – backed by Russia and Iran – and armed opposition groups.
According to the report, an estimated 70 percent of the health workforce has left the country, leaving just one Syrian doctor for every 10,000 civilians. Only 58 percent of hospitals remain fully functional, the UN says.
The ceasefire brokered by rebel-backer Turkey and regime ally Russia last March stemmed a months-long regime military offensive on the region – the last rebel-held bastion – that left several killed and displaced more than a million people from their homes.