Russia, Syrian army accused of destroying hospital, killing at least 2
U.S. relief organization said 13 others injured in attack, which was 2nd at the hospital in a week
Russian warplanes and their Syrian government allies battered rebel-held areas in and around Aleppo on Saturday, and rebels and aid workers accused them of destroying one of the city's main hospitals and killing at least two patients.
M10, the city's main trauma hospital, in eastern Aleppo, was struck as the U.S. and its allies urged Russia, which is trying to crush resistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to halt the bombing and reach a diplomatic resolution.
The latest strikes come 10 days into a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to capture eastern Aleppo and crush the last urban stronghold of a revolt against Assad that began in 2011.
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Saturday's airstrikes focused on major supply lines into rebel-held areas — the Castello Road and Malah district — while fighting raged in the Suleiman al Halabi neighbourhood, the front line to the north of Aleppo's Old City.
Rebels led by the main Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham said on Saturday they had regained several areas in the Bustan al-Pasha district seized a day before, a strategic point north west of the city.
The army, aided by hundreds of Iranian-backed militias who have arrived in Aleppo, have backed up the air campaign with a ground offensive on several frontlines to break rebel defences inside the city.
'Perpetrators will be held to account'
Rebels and rescuers said at least seven missiles were dropped on the hospital, more commonly known as Sakhour, by both Russian jets and Syrian helicopters.
An American relief organization said two patients were killed and 13 others injured in the attack, which was the second on the hospital in less than a week.
"The hospital is now out of service completely," said Mohammad Abu Rajab, a radiologist in the hospital. "There's destruction to walls, infrastructure, equipment and generators. There are no more guards or staff left. It's complete darkness."
FM <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Steinmeier?src=hash">#Steinmeier</a>: We need a ceasefire for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Aleppo?src=hash">#Aleppo</a> as quickly as possible! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Syria?src=hash">#Syria</a> 2/2—@GermanyDiplo
Footage of the bombed hospital on social media showed extensive damage.
The attack drew immediate condemnation from France and Germany.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the shelling of health care structures and personnel in Aleppo amounted to war crimes, adding: "Their perpetrators will be held to account."
"The bombing of Aleppo needs to finally stop! Whoever wants to fight terrorists does not attack hospitals!" German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tweeted.
U.S. condemns Russia bombings as 'barbarism'
The U.S envoy to the UN last week called Russia's actions in Syria "barbarism," not counterterrorism.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors the war, reported on Saturday heavy bombardment by government forces and "back and forth" fighting in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the bombing and many hundreds more wounded, with little access to treatment in hospitals that lack basic supplies.
Rebels say Moscow and the Syrians army have for months been targeting power plants, hospitals and bakeries to force nearly 250,000 believed to be trapped in the city into surrender.
'They strike without stop'
Residents say the airstrikes are unprecedented in their ferocity, deploying heavier bombs that flatten buildings on top of the people huddled inside.
"They strike without stop. Just look at this crater.... We have pulled six bodies and there are still people under the rubble, come and see they are all civilians," Ahmad al Salhi, a rescue worker in Sakhour district, said via internet messaging.
Russia joined the war exactly a year ago, tipping the balance of power in favour of Assad, who is also supported by Iranian ground forces and Shia militia from Lebanon and Iraq.
The army said it would press its advantage after retaking last Thursday the strategic Handarat camp north of Aleppo that had already changed hands once since the start of the attack.
Rescue workers said at least 34 were killed by sustained Russian and Syrian army strikes and artillery shelling on Friday and into the early hours of Saturday, while state media said rebel mortar attacks on government-held Midan, al Ithaa and other areas in the city had killed at least 20 people.