Premature babies in Aleppo removed from incubators after air strikes hit city's only children's hospital

Attacks prompt White House to condemn Syrian regime and Russia for ‘heinous actions’

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The Independent Online

Premature babies in Aleppo have been removed from their incubators after air strikes destroyed hospitals across the city, prompting condemnation of the Syrian government and Russia by the US and the UN.

Harrowing video footage shows tiny babies being removed from their incubators in a smoke-filled ward, with nurses reduced to tears as they detach the tubing providing support and wrap the babies in blankets.

A photograph provided to The Independent by a Syrian journalist shows premature babies later lying under a blanket on the floor – apparently in a civilian house – with medical tubes around them as a nurse tries to provide them with some form of support in a bid to keep them alive.

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(Yasser Al-Rahil)

The children’s hospital was destroyed on Thursday on the third day of a renewed assault by the Syrian regime and Russia against opposition-held districts in Aleppo.

Four other hospitals in the east of the city and the surrounding rebel-held countryside have also been hit and damaged since the offensive began on Tuesday, with Syria’s health directorate and the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting that all hospitals in the besieged part of the city are now out of service.

The death toll has reached at least 92 people since the start of the offensive, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 27 people, including children, were killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday alone in intense air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery rounds, according to the Observatory. The death toll is expected to rise due to the number of seriously wounded.  

Saturday’s bombardment destroyed rescue and medical facilities in eastern Aleppo, while schools in the area, many of which operate from basements due to frequent attacks, announced in a statement they would be closed on Saturday and Sunday “for the safety of students and teachers, after the barbarous aerial strikes.”

“People went to sleep to the sound of bombardment and awoke to the sound of bombardment,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of The Observatory told AFP. “There’s barely a neighbourhood that has been spared. People don’t leave their homes.”

Yasser Al-rahil, journalist and member of the Revolutionary Forces of Syria media office, who provided the photograph to The Independentsaid the recent bombardment of hospitals was resulting in high numbers of injured people dying in the hours after they are hurt.

Mr Al-rahil told The Independent“We have counted more than 2,000 artillery shells and nearly 250 air strikes since midnight on Friday, which have left 28 dead and 150 wounded.

“The number of people dead is increasing due to the fact that many of the wounded are in a serious condition and there is no adequate treatment. All hospitals in the liberated areas are out of service as a result of systematic shelling over the past two days, so the wounded are being treated anywhere available away from the bombing.”

Following the latest assaults by the regime the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned “heinous” bombings of hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo Saturday, warning the regime and its Russian backers they are responsible for long term consequences.

Mr Rice said in a statement: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms these horrific attacks against medical infrastructure and humanitarian aid workers. There is no excuse for these heinous actions.

“The Syrian regime and its allies, Russia in particular, bears responsibly for the immediate and long term consequences these actions have caused in Syria and beyond.”

In response to the statement Mr Al-Rahil told The Independent the Syrian people in the east of Aleppo were “tired of words from the international community”, saying: “We do not want to condemn it. We want to stop this holocaust in Aleppo.

“Civilians in eastern Aleppo are tired of words from the international community. They want Russia and the Assad regime to stop bombing them.”

Two top UN officials said they were “extremely saddened and appalled by the recent escalation in fighting in several parts of Syria.”

Humanitarian coordinator for Syria Ali al-Za’atari and regional humanitarian coordinator Kevin Kennedy also said they had shared a plan to deliver aid, and evacuate the sick and wounded from east Aleppo.

“It is imperative all parties agree to the plan and allow us to secure immediate, safe and unimpeded access to provide relief to those most in need,” they said.

Both Russia and Assad’s government have denied deliberately targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure during the war, which began in 2011 and was joined by Russia’s air force in September 2015.

The charity Doctors Without Borders said in a message there had been more than 30 hits on hospitals in eastern Aleppo since early July and that medical supplies had been “depleted” with “no possibility of sending more supplies in”.

Health and rescue workers have previously been able to bring damaged hospitals back into operation but a lack of supplies is making that harder.

Aleppo has been divided since 2012 between the rebel-controlled area in the east and government control in the west. The opposition has been under siege by the regime for nearly four months, creating food and fuel shortages. More than 250,000 people remain in the opposition-held part of the city. 

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