Alleged Russian Airstrike Hits Hospital In Idlib, Syria; Kremlin Denies Involvement

May 31, 2016
Rescue workers dig through the rubble of Idlib's National Hospital, hit by airstrikes late at night on March 30, 2016 | REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

LIVE UPDATES: The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

Major Hospital Struck By Suspected Russian Airstrike In Idlib, Syria

The BBC reports that according to Syrian activists 23 people have been killed in overnight airstrikes, allegedly conducted by Russian jets, in the northwestern city of Idlib.

The Turkish foreign ministry, in a statement, called on the international community to act swiftly against what it called the “indefensible” crimes of the Russian and the Syrian administration.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has carried out an air campaign that it says targets “terrorists”.

Turkey has strongly criticised the Russian operations in Syria and opposes the Assad government.

A worker with the Syria Civil Defense — an non-governmental aid agency often called “The White Helmets” for the gear they wear while trying to rescue civilians from rubble, told Al Jazeera that a Russian jet conducted the airstrike. Al Jazeera also quotes the UK-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights which made the same claim:

Ten overnight strikes on Monday in Idlib hit areas around the National Hospital and other parts of the city centre, according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Observatory.

“The air strikes are the most intensive on Idlib since the beginning of the truce,” Rahman told the AFP news agency. “Even though Idlib is not covered by the truce, it had been relatively calm with only intermittent raids.”

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Syria civil war: Russia raids on Idlib 'kill civilians'

The death toll from overnight air raids on the Syrian city of Idlib, apparently carried out by the Russian army, has risen to 23, including seven children, a monitoring group said. Ten overnight strikes on Monday in Idlib hit areas around the National Hospital and other parts of the city centre, according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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May 31, 2016 17:26 (GMT)

The most visible target of this wave of airstrikes was the National Hospital, and the death toll could rise. The Washington Post reports:

According to aid agencies and monitors, as many as 50 people died and more than 250 were injured when three warplanes repeatedly struck residential buildings clustered around the National Hospital in the city of Idlib for an hour starting at around 10 p.m. on Monday night. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll at 23 but said it could rise because some people were still buried in the rubble.

The clustering of the attacks suggested that the hospital may have been a target, but it was not directly hit, said Hakan Billgin, a spokesman for the French aid agency Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), which supports the hospital with funding and supplies. Another hospital supported by the charity, in the province of Aleppo, was also damaged in one of the strikes, but there were no casualties, according to Billgin.

As of six hours ago, The White Helmets were still pulling people out of the rubble: 

The Russian government is denying the claim. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov has made statements that the Russian air force has not conducted a single airstrike in all of Idlib province recently. The Russian state-run news outlet TASS reports:

“The Russian aviation has not fulfilled any combat tasks, much less delivered any airstrikes in the Idlib province. We advise all to take a more critical attitude to any ‘horror stories’ issued by the ‘British tandem’ represented by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Reuters news agency,” he said.

“As we presented to the world the objective monitoring data, fully disproving their previous fabrications – neither the Observatory nor the agency even tried to listen and much less publish a denial,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

We are in the process of examining these claims.

James Miller