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HomeMiddle East2 Hospitals Hit in Airstrikes in Rebel-Held Northern Syria

2 Hospitals Hit in Airstrikes in Rebel-Held Northern Syria

May 31, 2016

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Rescue workers pulled children and other victims from the rubble of two hospitals in a city in insurgent-held northern Syria on Tuesday morning after the latest aerial bombardments.

The attacks began Monday night, and, witnesses said, they appeared to be airstrikes conducted by Syrian government forces or their Russian allies. Rescue workers and antigovernment activists said that more than 20 people had been killed, with dozens more injured.

Video from Idlib and shared online by the Syria Civil Defense, a Western-funded rescue group also known as the White Helmets, showed rescuers working amid rubble and half-destroyed buildings near the National Hospital. One worker pulled a toddler from underneath broken slabs of concrete, still alive. Another rescuer cradled a dead child, covered with gray dust, retrieved from the rubble after hours of digging. He explained to the camera that the child’s parents and siblings had also been found dead.

Hospitals have been hit regularly during the five-year civil war in Syria — sometimes several hospitals or clinics in a single day. Earlier this spring, more than half a dozen medical facilities were attacked in about a week in the divided city of Aleppo.

Opposition activists and international human rights groups have said that hospitals appear to be deliberately targeted by government forces as a way of punishing civilians in rebel-held areas.

The Russian and Syrian governments have said that they are carrying out attacks aimed at terrorists, and Russia has denied that its strikes against the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and militants of the Islamic State have caused civilian casualties.

“The Russian aviation hasn’t performed any combat tasks, moreover hasn’t conducted any airstrikes in the province of Idlib,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Tuesday in a statement quoted by The Associated Press.

The latest barrage in Idlib came a day before a deadline that the United States, Russia and other interested governments had set for themselves to deliver supplies by airdrop to besieged areas. That they were even considering airdrops, which are expensive and not reliable, is an indication of how little progress has been made in persuading the government of President Bashar al-Assad to allow aid to reach towns besieged by his forces.

Now, United Nations officials appear to be backing away from airdrops, saying that the Syrian government is likely to give permission for aid to be delivered.

The Syrian government has been reluctant to allow airdrops to areas that are being besieged by his forces, and the United Nations has been unable to deliver aid to vulnerable civilians in those areas without government permission.