Aleppo hospital hit in air strike as Assad aims to ‘clean’ city
Fresh wave of bombings as John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov set to meet for talks
Troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad have once more bombed a hospital in east Aleppo, as he vowed to “clean” the rebel-held east of Syria’s largest city, raising fears of further atrocities.
Doctors and activists in Aleppo said the M10 hospital, which was bombed two weeks ago, was hit again with a “bunker buster” bomb, wounding two doctors and a pharmacist.
Attacks on medical facilities have become a pattern in the conflict, despite growing international condemnation. Only 35 doctors are left to serve 250,000 people under siege in east Aleppo. The are only 11 ambulances as well.
The charity Médecins sans Frontières said at least 114 children have been killed and 321 injured in the last three weeks of violence as the Assad forces – primarily Iranian-supported Shia militias backed by Russian warplanes – seek to destroy what little resistance remains in east Aleppo.
“The international community has become immune to images of dead children being recovered from the rubble of buildings ravaged by bombs,” said Carlos Francisco, MSF’s head of mission in Syria, who described east Aleppo as a “kill box”.
Local hospitals said 18 people were killed and a further 181 wounded, including 30 women and 37 children, on Thursday, with the bombing continuing into the early hours of Friday. The total casualties are likely higher as many families bury their loved ones after removing them from the rubble without taking them to local hospitals.
Mr Assad, meanwhile, has spoken of “cleaning” Aleppo and using it as a “springboard” to winning the country’s war during an interview with Russian TV.
With Britain leading international outcry over the regime’s campaign against rebels in Aleppo and Russia’s backing for it, Mr Assad declared that victory in the city would allow the Syrian army to liberate other areas of Syria from “terrorists”.
Speaking to Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda, he said Aleppo was effectively no longer Syria’s industrial capital but that taking back the city would provide important political and strategic gains for his regime.
“It’s going to be the springboard, as a big city, to move to other areas, to liberate other areas from the terrorists. This is the importance of Aleppo now.
“You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey to go back to where they come from, or to kill them. There’s no other option. But Aleppo is going to be a very important springboard to do this move,” he said.
Rescue workers said Syria’s military, backed by Russian warplanes, killed more than 150 people in east Aleppo this week.
Rising casualties in the city, where many buildings have been reduced to rubble or are lacking roofs or walls, have prompted a renewed diplomatic push, with talks between the US and Russia planned for Saturday.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, are to meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also expected to attend the talks, but Iran’s participation is in doubt, possibly as a result of the dire state of |Iranian-Saudi relations. The meeting comes 12 days after Kerry called an end to bilateral talks with Russia on the Syrian conflict. (Addtional reporting Reuters and the Associated Press)