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Government attack on hospital in northwestern Syria kills 6 people




BEIRUT (AP) – Artillery shells fired from government areas hit a major hospital in a rebel-held city in northwestern Syria on Sunday, killing at least six patients, including a child, injuring medical staff and forcing the facility to close its doors, a relief group and activists reported.

The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a hospital in Atareb, a town in western Aleppo, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The hospital is located underground, a tactic used by the opposition to avoid targeting the conflict-prone area.

The Syrian American Medical Association, the aid group that supports the hospital, said three artillery attacks early Sunday caused extensive damage to the hospital, including the destruction of the orthopedic clinic and the collapse of electric generators on the hospital roof.

“The hospital has been evacuated at the moment,” said Fadi Hakim, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Association, who added that the emergency room had also been damaged. The relief group said 17 people, including five medical personnel, were injured. Four have been evacuated to Turkey for urgent treatment.

Among those killed were a child and a woman, according to Syrian Civil Defense volunteers known as White Helmets. A video posted on the local health directorate Facebook page showed debris and blood stains at the entrance to the hospital.

“The medical staff was in a state of panic,” said Omar Halaq, the director of the Atareb hospital, also known as the Cave.

Attacks on hospitals are common in the Syrian conflict and are mostly blamed on the government and its allied forces.

Government forces knew the location of the hospital, according to the Syrian American Medical Association, which shared the hospital’s coordinates through the United Nations notification system, said the aid partner organization, the International Rescue Committee.

“Health facilities are protected under international law and should be safe havens in times of crisis, but after 10 years of war this is not the case in Syria,” said Rehana Zawar, IRC Director for Northwest Syria.

This is the 5th attack on healthcare recorded this year, the IRC said, adding that the facilities it supports have been attacked 24 times in 2018 alone.

U.S.-based human rights doctors have documented 598 attacks on at least 350 special health care facilities in Syria since March 2011, the vast majority of which are suspected to have been carried out by the Syrian government and allied forces, including Russia. . In the same 10-year period, at least 930 medical personnel were killed, the rights group said.

The government views rebel-held areas as controlled by terrorists.

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