Five Hospitals And Two Schools Hit By Suspected Russian Airstrikes In Syria

February 15, 2016

Live Updates: Three hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria have been struck this morning, causing heavy civilian casualties.

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

From Ukraine To Amsterdam To Syria, Vladimir Putin Is Running This Poker Table

Our latest analysis of Russia’s strategy in Ukraine, Syria, and Europe… and it’s bleak:
UN: 50 Killed In Strikes On Five Medical Facilities And Two Schools In Syria

The scale of the attacks against civilian infrastructure continues to grow. We began today with a report that three hospitals had been bombed by suspected Russian airstrikes. It now appears that a total of five hospitals, and two schools, have been hit today.

The Associated Press quotes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as saying that at least 50 people have been killed in the attacks.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that victims of the attacks included children.

He quotes the secretary-general as calling the attacks “blatant violations of international laws” that “are further degrading an already devastated health care system and preventing access to education in Syria.”

Haq quoted Ban as saying the attacks “cast a shadow on commitments” made by nations seeking to end the Syrian conflict at a conference in Munich on Feb. 11, which included a cessation of hostilities within a week and an end to attacks on civilians.

Reuters reports on the bombing of one of the schools:

Fourteen people were killed in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border when missiles slammed into a school sheltering families fleeing the offensive and the children’s hospital, two residents and a medic said.

Bombs also hit another refugee shelter south of the town and a convoy of trucks, another resident said.

“We have been moving scores of screaming children from the hospital,” said medic Juma Rahal. At least two children were killed and scores of people injured, he said.

It seems that the intense bombing campaign is driving more civilians to the hospital at the exact time that so many hospitals are also the targets.

At least one video seems to confirm that Russia jets were involved in an attack on the front-line town of Hraytan, north of Aleppo, and cluster munitions have been used to devastating effect:

The Su-34 has not been given to the Assad regime. In fact, just hours ago the state-controlled propaganda outlet Sputnik was bragging about the role of the Su-34 in airstrikes launched today:

Su-34 & Co Take Off to Obliterate Terrorism in Syria

The video features a Su-24 bomber, a Su-34 fighter-bomber, a Su-25 strike aircraft as well as a Mil Mi-8 multipurpose helicopter. Russia started its air operation against terrorists in Syria on September 30 at President Bashar Assad's request. © Sputnik/ Grigory Sysoyev © REUTERS/ Shamil Zhumatov/Files © Sputnik/ Grigory Sysoyev

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Feb 15, 2016 23:51 (GMT)

Furthermore, at least one historic mosque has also been damaged by today’s bombing:
James Miller
White House and Kremlin Versions of Phone Call Between Obama and Putin Differ Markedly on Syria, Ukraine
Both The White House and the Kremlin reported on a telephone conversation between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, but the versions are markedly different.
Meduza, an independent media site run by exiles from Russia in Latvia who were previously at, has a succinct chart of the differences (translation by The Interpreter):

What Putin’s and Obama’s Conversation Was About

Kremlin’s Version
– On the creation of a united anti-terrorist front in Syria
– On the need for Kiev to fulfill obligations under the Minsk agreements

White House Version
– On the end of air strikes on Syrian rebels by Russia
– On the need for the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass to fulfill obligations under the Minsk agreements.

On, the official account of the telephone conversation said there was a “positive” assessment of the Munich talks on Syria February 11-12, both in support of the ceasefire under UN Resolution 2254 and on issues of facilitating a real political process (translation by The Interpreter):

The president of Russia once against emphasized the importance of creating a united anti-terrorist front while refusing double standards. He particularly emphasized the need for close working contacts between the defense ministries of Russia and the USA to enable consistent and successful struggle with ISIL and other terrorist organizations.

Regarding Ukraine, reported:

Vladimir Putin expressed the hope that the Kiev authorities would take, finally, practical steps on the most rapid fulfillment of their obligations, including establishing a direct dialogue with the Donbass, conducting an amnesty and constitutional reforms, coordination with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk and the enforcing of changes in the law on the special status.

Meanwhile, the Washington take was different; didn’t have any mention of the telephone conversation with Putin at all. CNN and other news media that covered the conversation emphasized Obama’s demand “to stop  hitting opposition forces in Syria” based on a statement from a White House spokesman:

President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his air campaign against Syrian opposition forces during a phone call Saturday, the White House said, a day after Putin’s deputy described relations between Moscow and Washington sinking to Cold War depths.

In a description of the phone call, the White House said Obama stressed “the importance of rapidly implementing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria and initiating a nationwide cessation of hostilities.”


The U.S. says Russia’s air campaign has killed scores of civilians and jeopardizes the prospects of a peace accord in the civil war-wracked nation.
“President Obama emphasized the importance now of Russia playing a constructive role by ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria,” the White House said after Obama’s phone call with Putin Sunday.

Regarding Ukraine:

“The President also urged combined Russian-separatist forces to fulfill their Minsk obligations, especially adhering to the cease-fire,” the White House said, referring to the long-ignored Minsk peace accord that was agreed to a year ago.

Kremlin propaganda played up the “united front” angle:
This was echoed by US Putin supporters:
Abroad, there was the attendance to equate the American and Russian leaders:
But US media saw the conversation as “pressure” from Obama:
— and not enough pressure, in fact:
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Three Hospitals, Two Run By International NGOs, Hit By Suspected Russian Airstrikes In Syria

Three Syrian hospitals have been struck this morning, two in the Idlib province, one of them supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the other in the Aleppo town of Azaz, near the Turkish border.

Ma’arrat Al Nouman is a ways behind the front lines of battle, and ISIS is not present there.

Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat has gathered together a playlist of footage:

One of these videos shows the moment of the air strike itself, with a fast jet visible at about 10 seconds in:

While the model of the aircraft is hard to discern from the footage, Ma’arrat Al Nouman has been subjected to near-daily air strikes by the Russian Air Force since the beginning of the campaign on September 30, last year. 

Al-Marra Today reports that there were four strikes in total on the hospital, with at least five dead.

This video, filmed by Syrian Civil Defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, shows one of the follow-up air strikes as rescuers are approaching the hospital: 

The MSF hospital has been geolocated just south of Ma’arrat Al Nouman, outside al-Hamidiah

In Ma’arrat Al Nouman itself, there are reports that the National Hospital was struck:

In the Aleppo region, near the border with Turkey, a school and a gynecological and pediatric hospital in the town of Azaz were struck by Russian-made surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

This hospital is supported by the France-based Syria Charity.


The missiles appear to be Russian-made OTR-21 Tochkas but it is uncertain if they were fired by Russian or Syrian regime units. That Russian air strikes were reported immediately after the impacts suggests close coordination regardless.

This video, reportedly shot several days ago south of Aleppo, shows the launch of such a missile with Hezbollah fighters in attendance:
According to this news report, trucks carrying humanitarian aid were struck by cluster bombs in the town:

Some of the extremely graphic images coming out of Azaz show terrible civilian casualties.

Reuters reports, citing a medic and two residents of Azaz, that at least 14 civilians have been killed.

According to the report, Russian jets have also bombed a refugee shelter south of the town. Azaz is at the center of a major refugee crisis, as the town lies on the road to the border in a pocket of rebel-held territory under attack on three sides by regime-allied forces, Kurdish YPG-led fighters and ISIS, with daily Russian air attacks.

“We have been moving scores of screaming children from the hospital,” said medic Juma Rahal. At least two children were killed and ambulances ferried scores of injured people to Turkey for treatment, he said. 

To the south of Azaz, on the other side of the encircling regime-allied forces’ belt of control, Russian jets bombed the Aleppo suburb of Anadan: 

— Pierre Vaux