Syria: Airstrikes on hospitals & schools; 50 civilians killed

RSTV Bureau
Azaz  : This image taken from video provided by the Syrian activist-based media group Azaz Media Center, which has-been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows people gathered around destroyed vehicles in Azaz, Syria Syria, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Turkey says Kurdish forces have been expelled from areas around the northern Syrian town of Azaz after a weekend of cross-border shelling.AP/PTI

Azaz : This image taken from video provided by the Syrian activist-based media group Azaz Media Center, which has-been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows people gathered around destroyed vehicles in Azaz, Syria Syria, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Turkey says Kurdish forces have been expelled from areas around the northern Syrian town of Azaz after a weekend of cross-border shelling.AP/PTI

The United Nations and the US have condemned the airstrikes on medical facilities and schools in northern Syria that killed more than 50 civilians. According to the UN at least 5 medical facilities and 2 schools in Aleppo and Idlib provinces in north Syria killed nearly 50 civilians including children.

“Such attacks are blatant violations of international law,” said UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq while quoting UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Apart from the suspected Russian airstrikes, Turkey too shelled advancing Kurdish fighters in Syria for a third day on Tuesday. Both Ankara and Moscow traded accusations over their military entanglement in the conflict.

The US too confirmed that the airstrikes hit two civilian hospitals in Aleppo. One of them was run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

“That the (President Bashar al-) Assad regime and its supporters would continue these attacks, without cause and without sufficient regard for international obligations to safeguard innocent lives, flies in the face of the unanimous calls by the ISSG (International Syria Support Group)… to avoid attacks on civilians,” the US State Department said.

Such an action “casts 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,” the statement added.

Even as world powers pushed for peace in Syria at the meet in Munich two days ago, hopes have now dampened on that front.

Reports say that UN’s peace envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura is on a surprise visit to Damascus.

Both Ankara and Moscow have been engaged in a war of words which has only increased the violence on the ground. Ankara has accused the Kurdish forces of allying with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an outlawed movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.

Turkey fears the Kurds will be able to create a contiguous Kurdish territory just across the border in northern Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned that Ankara “will not let Azaz fall” to the SDF, adding “the necessary intervention will be made”.

Russia’s air strikes have allowed government troops to press a major operation that has virtually encircled rebels in Aleppo and pushed them towards the north. This has clearly angered Turkey, who has issued a stark warning to Russia.

“If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organisation and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” he said.

On the other hand Moscow called Turkey’s shelling in Syria “provocative” and claimed that its military intervention has targeted IS and other “terrorists”. Howver, rights groups say Russia’s air raids have caused disproportionately high civilian casualties.

The situation is a big worry for Washington, which has backed the Kurds in their battles against the Islamic State group despite the discomfort of Turkey, a key member of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria.

The MSF-supported hospital in Idlib is one of several health facilities Russia is accused of hitting since its aerial campaign began September 30.

“The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict,” said MSF Syria operations chief, Massimiliano Rebaudengo.

More than 260,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

(With inputs from PTI)