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Syrian forces kill several civilians during shelling of hospital west of Aleppo

The hospital, which operates inside a cave and serves thousands of patients, is said to have been put out of service
Turkey, which has a military presence in the area, earlier announced that there had been an artillery attack by Damascus-backed forces on a hospital in the area (MEE/Ali Haj Suleiman)

At least six civilians were killed and several medics injured when a hospital west of Aleppo was shelled by Syrian forces on Sunday, medics and rescuers have said. 

Sources on the ground told Middle East Eye that six people had died, while Reuters put the death toll at seven. They included at least five men and a child. 

The Syrian American Medical Society (Sams) said three artillery strikes hit the al-Atareb Surgical Hospital on Sunday morning. 

The hospital, which operates inside a cave, serves the entire western Aleppo countryside population of around 120,000 but has been put out of service by the strike, its director, Omar Hallaq, told MEE. 

He claimed Syria and Russia deliberately target hospitals to kill civilians and weaken medical capacity in opposition areas.

"This latest incident further illustrates the need for the [UN] Security Council to better enforce its existing resolutions, and for those actors who perpetrate these attacks to be held accountable," said Sams president Dr Mufaddal Hamadeh in a statement. 

"How much longer can we leave innocent civilians and health workers so helpless in the face of these attacks?"

The Syrian American Medical Society said three artillery strikes hit the al-Atareb Surgical Hospital on Sunday morning (MEE/Ali Haj Suleiman)
The Syrian American Medical Society said three artillery strikes hit the al-Atareb Surgical Hospital on Sunday morning (MEE/Ali Haj Suleiman)

Paramedic Abdul Qadir told MEE that many of the injured had been taken to nearby Al-Quds hospital, some with eye injuries and fractures.

Turkey, which has a military presence in the area, earlier announced that there had been an artillery attack by Damascus-backed forces on a hospital in the area.

Meanwhile, Russian air strikes hit a gas factory on Sunday near the town of Sarmada near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Also on Sunday, state agency SANA reported that artillery fire had killed two civilians in the regime-held city of Aleppo, outside the rebel bastion.

A ceasefire agreed by Russia and Turkey a year ago was supposed to protect the area, ending a Russian bombing campaign in support of the Syrian government that displaced more than a million people in Idlib.  

Commenting on Sunday's hospital attack, Syrian Civil Defence rescue workers, also known as White Helmets, accused Syrian and its Russian allies of "targeting medical facilities and hospitals, intending to deprive civilians of these vital services".

Sams said it has documented 157 attacks on its facilities since 2017. The 1oth anniversary of the Syrian civil war passed on 15 March.