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Syria crisis: Strikes on hospitals and schools kill 'up to 50'

February 15, 2016 5:59 pm

Up to 50 people have been killed in missile attacks on schools and hospitals in northern Syria, according to the United Nations.

“Such attacks are a blatant violation of international laws,” the UN said.
One of the raids was on a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic in Maarat al-Numan, which the group called a “deliberate attack”.

Activists have accused Russia of carrying out the attacks but Moscow has yet to respond.

Russia has been backing the Syrian government in its offensive against rebels but says it only targets what it calls "terrorists

Two medical facilities in Maarat al-Numan, which is in Idlib province, are reported to have been hit.

MSF said one of its facilities had been struck by four missiles in the space of minutes, leading them to believe it “wasn’t an accidental attack, that it was deliberate”.

It said seven people died with another eight still missing.

Mego Terzian, president of MSF France, told Reuters “either the [Syrian] government or Russia” was “clearly” responsible.

A second hospital in Maarat al-Numan was also hit, killing three people, said opposition group the Local Co-ordination Committees.

The strikes follow a pattern of systematic attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in neighbouring Turkey.

In Azaz, near the Turkish border, at least 12 people were killed in an attack on two hospitals and two schools, reports said.

One of those hit was a children’s hospital. A worker for Syria Charity, which runs the facility, blamed Russia.

“The Russians have been targeting this area because it’s what we call a liberated area, by moderate opposition – that’s why we are 99% sure this was Russian airstrikes,” said Anfal Sevik.

Unicef said six children were killed in the strikes on schools.

“Let us remember that these victims are children,” a statement said. “Children.”

Azaz has been the focus of intense fighting, with Turkey on Monday threatening Kurdish rebels with the “harshest reaction” if they tried to take the town

A statement from UN spokesman spokesman Farhan Haq said the attacks “cast a shadow” on commitments made by international powers last week.

At a conference, world leaders pledged to work towards a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week.

But Russia argues that the “cessation” does not apply to its air strikes, which have tilted the balance of the war in favour of the Syrian government.

The US has also condemned the strikes, saying they cast doubt “on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people”.

EU foreign policy chief said the attack on the MSF facility was “completely unacceptable” but did not say who was responsible.

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is in the capital Damascus as part of his effort to restart peace talks.

Almost five years of civil war in Syria have led to the deaths of more than 250,000 people. More than 11 million people have been displaced.