Russian or Syrian warplanes knocked two hospitals out of service in the besieged rebel sector of Aleppo on Wednesday and ground forces intensified an assault aiming at retrieving Aleppo from the rebels’ hands and ending the five-year crisis.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on Thursday it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on Monday. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.
Since 19 September, more than 450 civilians have been killed and more than 1700 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
A medical association said there were only six hospitals now remaining in the besieged city that has been pounded by massive aerial bombardment and artillery attacks since a US-Russia implemented ceasefire collapsed last week.
“The attack happened at 4am local time [0100 GMT]. One warplane targeted both [hospitals] directly,” Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the hospitals, said on Wednesday.
“There are only six hospitals currently operational now that the M2 and M10 have been temporarily taken out of service,” he said.
Both hospitals had been targeted in previous aerial attacks, according to Sahloul, who described the bombings as “deliberate”.
Three employees were injured at the second hospital, among them an ambulance driver, a nurse, and an accountant
“The warplane flew over us and directly started dropping its missiles … at around 4 a.m.,” Mohammad Abu Rajab, a radiologist at the M10 hospital, the largest trauma hospital in the city’s rebel-held sector, told Reuters.
“Rubble fell in on the patients in the intensive care unit.”
M10 hospital workers said oxygen and power generators were destroyed and patients were transferred to another hospital.
Photographs sent to Reuters by a hospital worker at the facility showed damaged storage tanks, a rubble-strewn area, and the collapsed roof of what he said was a power facility.
There were no initial reports of casualties there, but medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said two patients had been killed at the other hospital, in shelling which took it out of service as well, leaving east Aleppo with only seven doctors in a position to undertake surgery.
“And this comes at a time when east Aleppo has been under siege since July and is suffering the bloodiest indiscriminate bombing since the beginning of the war,” MSF’s Syria head Carlos Francisco said.
Medics took shelter in the hospital basement during the mid-morning attack, sending calls for aid as they hid until government planes had retreated.
“If the hospital falls on top of us, come pull us out from under the rubble but do not take pictures,” said Bara’a, a nurse in M2, in a message from the shelter to a discussion group of journalists and doctors in eastern Aleppo. “Please don’t take pictures; we won’t gain anything from it and our dignity is too precious.”
“These bombings are systematic and direct against hospitals that are serving besieged Aleppo,” said Mohammad Abu Rajab, a doctor at the M2. “Today we are saddened. Grief has filled the faces of all the doctors because we can no longer treat these patients. We pray to God that we are able to work again.”
Extreme destructive weapons
Artillery shells also hit the al-Maadi neighborhood near a bread distribution facility, killing six people, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources on the ground for its information.
It said dozens were wounded and the number of dead was likely to rise because of the severity of injuries.
It was unclear if the air strikes were executed by Syrian forces or their Russian ally,
Extremely destructive bombs called the “bunker buster bombs” is used for the first time in Aleppo, causing extreme damage and increasing the death toll.
Local activists and medical officials said Sunday that in addition to the powerful bombs being referred to as bunker busters, they were being hit by phosphorus, cluster and barrel bombs.
Aleppo Civil Defense head Selmou said the “shape and destructive power” of the bombs used in Aleppo in recent days was new to him. “They destroy the underground shelters and shake the neighboring buildings, causing them to collapse,” he said.
Rescue efforts have been severely hampered because bomb damage has made roads impassable and because civil defense centers and rescue equipment have been destroyed in raids.
Civil defense worker Ammar al Selmo said rescuers have only two fire trucks and three ambulances left in Aleppo and that three fire trucks, two ambulances and three vans had been hit in the past week.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Wednesday that attacks on medical facilities were war crimes.
Speaking at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban said: “This is a war against Syria’s health workers. Deliberate attacks on hospitals are war crimes. Denying people access to essential health care violates international humanitarian law.
“Even a slaughterhouse is more humane.”
Citing the Physicians for Human Rights group, Ban said 95 percent of medical workers in Aleppo before the war have been killed, detained, or fled the fighting.
Kieran Dwyer, Syria spokesman for UNICEF, said there were only 30 doctors left in eastern Aleppo for a population of 250,000 – 100,000 of those children. Medical supplies have run out.
“There are so many injured children and other civilians from these attacks that they cannot treat the most severely wounded anymore,” Dwyer told Al Jazeera. “They are … left to die.”
Only 30 remaining doctors are currently serving 250,000 people in east Aleppo, the Syrian American Medical Society reported on Friday.
“There are 30 doctors who are still inside the eastern Aleppo city,” Abd Arrahman Alomar, a pediatrician who works for the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) in opposition-controlled areas, told a news briefing in Geneva.
“There are hundreds of injured people in the streets, in a dangerous condition, some of them are being treated there,” Alaa al-Halabi, a citizen journalist in east Aleppo told Syria Direct on Sunday. “Others are moved to small houses serving as field hospitals. Those are overflowing too, with the dead and injured.”
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The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.