Airstrikes hits aid hospital in northern Syria; casualties feared

At least eight staff members are missing Monday after airstrikes at a hospital affiliated with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Syria, believed to have been carried out by Russian jets.

"We can confirm that the MSF-supported structure in Maaret al-Noumaan in northern Idlib was destroyed this morning in airstrikes,” said Mirella Hodeib, a press offer at MSF in Beirut.

"The hospital was hit four times in two series of at least two attacks within a few minutes of each other," MSF reported, condemning what "appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the airstrikes are believed to have been carried out by Russians jets. It also reported a series of fresh aerial assaults in the vicinity, also attributed to Russian forces.

Northern Syria is seeing its health infrastructure badly damaged. According to medics, at least 10 hospitals in Aleppo province are no longer functional as a result of heavy damage from airstrikes.

MSF said 40,000 people would be cut off from access to medical services as a result of the latest strikes on the hospital in Idlib. Three MSF-supported hospitals were recently damaged in Aleppo.

Russia, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, started its strikes in Syria in September 30 and has helped the government's forces seize key territory from rebels. Notably, the government has managed to cut off rebels in southern Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Turkey, a staunch backer of Syrian rebels fighting al-Assad, has promised to protect opposition positions in northern Aleppo, including Azaz, a key town just over the border that serves as a supply route.

"We will not allow Azaz to fall," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying while traveling to Kiev.

The observatory, meanwhile, reported a fresh airstrike, believed to be Russian, in Azaz, which killed 10 people, including three children.

Davutoglu also warned the Syrian Kurdish militia not to advance further in the region, after Turkey shelled its positions repeatedly in recent days.

"If they approach Azaz, they will face the most severe reaction," he said, pledging to destroy an airbase the Kurdish YPG militia captured if they do not withdraw.

Ankara fears Kurdish gains inside Syria will stoke nationalism among the Kurdish minority inside Turkey which has long complained of discrimination.

The Syrian Kurdish militia also has links to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), currently fighting Turkish government forces.

The YPG has made gains in Aleppo against Islamic rebel groups, including hardliners, in recent days, taking advantage of the weakened opposition in the area.

The Syrian Kurds are the main ally on the ground helping the United States beat back the Islamic State extremist group. This relationship has led to tensions between Turkey and the US.

Last update: Mon, 15/02/2016 - 12:58

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