Children's hospital in Aleppo bombed for 2nd time in a week amid reports of gas attack
More than 100 people have been killed across northern Syria since Tuesday
Intensive bombings pummeled Syria's rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of the city of Aleppo on Friday, residents and rescuers said, hitting an area housing several hospitals and sending the chief of a pediatrics clinic in a frantic search for a place to move his young patients.
Earlier Friday, airstrikes on a village in the rural Aleppo province killed seven members of the same family, including four children, opposition activists said.
The attacks mark the fourth day of renewed assault by Syrian government warplanes on eastern Aleppo districts, a rebel-held enclave of 275,000 people. The onslaught began with a Russian announcement of its own offensive on the northern rebel-controlled Idlib province and the central Homs province.
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So far, more than 100 people have been killed across northern Syria since Tuesday.
A physician who identified himself as Dr. Hatem, the head of the only pediatric hospital remaining in besieged rebel-held part of Aleppo, said his facility in the al-Shaar neighbourhood has been targeted once more on Friday, causing damages to its exterior. The hospital was also hit during a wave of airstrikes on the complex housing four hospitals on Wednesday.
"Now it is being bombed ... I am sorry ... I have to go to transfer the children" to a safe area, he said in a text message. He uses his first name fearing for his family's safety.
Hatem rushed 14 babies in incubators to another facility a 10-minute drive away while airstrikes continued, he said in a later message.
"As we drove out with the ambulance, warplanes were firing and artillery were shelling," he wrote. "But thank God we were not hurt."
Another Aleppo hospital in a different neighbourhood across town also was bombed late on Thursday, he said. The entrance was set on fire but no one was wounded.
126 attacks on health facilities
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that dozens of airstrikes, artillery and barrel bombs hit 18 different neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo.
The Observatory said government bombings have targeted areas housing hospitals, including one with the children's hospital and another nearby with one of the few remaining intensive care units in eastern Aleppo.
Many hospitals and clinics in the besieged area have moved their operations underground after months of relentless bombings and airstrikes. The World Health Organization said in 2016, it recorded 126 attacks on health facilities, a common tactic in the war in Syria.
Russia and the Syrian government deny targeting hospitals in airstrikes.
A city divided
The city of Aleppo, once Syria's commercial hub, has been divided since 2012, with the eastern half in rebel hands and the western half controlled by government forces.
Ibrahim al-Haj, a member of the Syria Civil Defence rescuers in Aleppo said the city "is a mess." The group of rescuers and first responders said they were struggling to put out fires set off by the bombings in at least 10 different areas of eastern Aleppo.
The Observatory said at least three people were killed in the attacks on the city's districts.
The Observatory also said the strike that killed the seven from one family took place in southwestern Aleppo. Syrian Civil Defence posted photographs online showing children's bodies covered with dust and blood.
Medics and aid workers also reported a suspected attack involving toxic gas in a district on the western edge of the rebel-held area.
At least 12 people, including children, were treated for breathing difficulties, said Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports health facilities in Aleppo.
Claims of toxic gas attacks are common in Syria, and reports by international inspectors have held the government responsible for using chemicals in attacks on civilians, which Damascus denies.