Syria civil war: At least two dead after maternity hospital hit by air strikes in rebel-held Idlib province

The number of casualties was expected to rise as recovery work continued

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 29 July 2016 14:42
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Video shows bombed Syrian maternity hospital

One of the biggest maternity hospitals in a rebel-held area of Syria has been bombed, leaving at least two people dead and many injured.

Save the Children, which supports the hospital in rural Idlib province, said air strikes struck the front of the building on Friday afternoon.

Caroline Anning, a spokesperson for the charity, told The Independent at least two people were dead but that the toll may rise as recovery work continues.

Newborn babies at a maternity hospital in Idlib province that was damaged by an air strike on 29 July

"This is the first time it has happened to one of our facilities in Syria," she added.

Photos showed part of the building completely destroyed, leaving piles of rubble in the street and treatment rooms strewn with debris.

As the largest maternity hospital in the area, the facility takes patients from a 70-mile radius and delivers more than 700 babies every month, Save the Children said.

It was unclear whether the building was the target of the strike or was damaged accidentally, with a burned-out car seen in the road outside.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a "civil defence building" nearby in Kafer Takhareem was also hit.

In another part of the northern Idlib countryside, it documented air strikes killing at least five people and injuring more than 25 on Friday.

There was no immediate confirmation of which party in the conflict was behind the hospital strike but Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces or Russian allies were suspected.

Idlib province is almost completely under rebel control, including a strong presence of the Jabhat al-Nusra group, which announced its split from al-Qaeda today.

It claimed it had split from Osama bin Laden’s terror organisation on Thursday and re-named itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant) in a suspected attempt to garner greater support from moderate rebel groups and international backers.

Friday's bombing was the latest in a series of air raids hitting medical facilities in Syria, including others in Idlib province, as well as neighbouring Aleppo.

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has said it believed suspected Russian air strikes on its hospital in Maarat al-Numan in February were a "deliberate attack".

A maternity hospital in Idlib province that was damaged by an air strike on 29 July

Humanitarian organisations and governments are continuing to raise concerns about besieged areas of Syria and the bombardment of civilian areas.

Aid workers from the Shafak charity, which runs an ambulance network, said children make up more than a third of the casualties they treat in Aleppo.

Rami, whose named was changed to protect his identity, said the death rate was rising in the divided city because medics are no longer able to evacuate patients from surrounded rebel areas for treatment.

He described finding children buried beneath the rubble of one recent air strike, adding: “A child less than ten years old ran to me shouting 'sir please put my arm back'. His left arm was amputated and he held it with his right hand.

"He was begging me to put it back, and this is only one of so many tragedies that we see.”

Russian authorities promised to open three routes to allow unarmed rebels and civilians to flee Aleppo on Thursday after coming under increasing international pressure, but the pledge was met with distrust.

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