Hospitals shuttered in devastated eastern Aleppo, WHO says
BEIRUT — All hospitals in Syria’s besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo are out of service after days of heavy airstrikes, its health directorate and the World Health Organization said, though a war monitor said some were still functioning.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the United States condemns “in the strongest terms” the latest airstrikes against hospitals and urged Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to take steps to halt the violence.
Intense airstrikes have battered the eastern part of the city since Tuesday, when the Syrian army and its allies resumed operations after a pause lasting weeks. They launched ground attacks Friday.
The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 27 people, including children, had been killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday by dozens of airstrikes and barrel bombs and dozens of artillery rounds.
Warplanes, artillery and helicopters continued bombarding eastern Aleppo on Saturday, hitting many of its densely populated residential districts, the Observatory said. There were intense clashes in the Bustan al-Basha district, it added.
“This destruction of infrastructure essential to life leaves the besieged, resolute people, including all children and elderly men and women, without any health facilities offering life-saving treatment … leaving them to die,” said Aleppo’s health directorate in a statement sent to Reuters late Friday by an opposition official.
Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said Saturday that a U.N.-led group of aid agencies based over the border in Turkey “confirmed today that all hospitals in eastern Aleppo are out of service.”
The monitoring group said some hospitals are still operating in besieged parts of Aleppo but said many residents were frightened to use them because of the heavy shelling.
Medical sources, residents and rebels in eastern Aleppo say hospitals have been damaged by airstrikes and helicopter barrel bombs in recent days, including direct hits.
“The United States again joins our partners … in demanding the immediate cessation of these bombardments and calling on Russia to immediately deescalate violence and facilitate humanitarian aid and access for the Syrian people,” Rice said.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted that reports of airstrikes hitting civilians and hospitals in east Aleppo were “sickening” and called for a return to diplomacy.
However, with the United States awaiting the inauguration in late January of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been critical of Washington’s Syria policy without laying out detailed plans, diplomatic efforts appear stalled.
Staffan De Mistura, the special envoy of the U.N. secretary general, is likely to meet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moalem in Damascus on Sunday after recent talks in Turkey and Iran, another diplomat said.