Air strikes batter women's hospital in Syria's Idlib: monitor, aid group

November 25, 2016 1:58 PM EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russian or Syrian government warplanes pounded a women's hospital in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province on Friday, killing three people nearby, a monitoring group and an aid organization said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said air strikes battered the hospital in Termanin village on the border between Idlib and Aleppo provinces, knocking it out of service. Damascus and Moscow both deny targeting hospitals.

Four consecutive rockets hit the gynecology hospital, said Asaad al-Halabi, advocacy manager at Shafak, the Syrian aid group that runs the facility.

"Today is the international day for the elimination of violence against women," he added.

The strikes destroyed the eastern side of the building and damaged the emergency and operating rooms, the aid group said in a statement.

A video shared by Shafak showed a wrecked ambulance and the building's facade reduced to rubble.

Western countries and human rights activists have accused the air forces of the Syrian government and its ally Russia ally of deliberately attacking hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in areas controlled by rebels.

Moscow and Damascus say their air campaign is directed only against militants.

Syria's war pits President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, against an array of mostly Sunni rebel groups, including some backed by Turkey, Gulf monarchies or the United States.

Idlib, in northwest Syria, contains the largest populated area of Syria controlled by rebels - both nationalist groups under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and Islamist fighters including the former al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Moscow's deputy foreign minister has accused rebels of using civilians and "so-called hospitals" as shields and setting up medical facilities in cities without correctly marking them.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Andrew Roche)



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