Syrian Regime Forces Shell 'Largest' Hospital on Rebel-held Side of Aleppo

The crucial health facility was already out of service, having suffered a heavy bombardment earlier in the week in an attack denounced by UN chief Ban Ki-moon as a war crime.

Photo provided by Syrian Civil Defense shows a rescue worker carrying a child pulled out from the rubble of after airstrikes hit the al-Shaar neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 28, 2016.
A photo provided by Syrian Civil Defense shows a rescue worker carrying a child pulled out from the rubble of after airstrikes hit the al-Shaar neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 28, 2016.Credit: Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad struck a crucial field hospital in the heavily bombed rebel-held al Sakhour district in Aleppo, killing at least one person and devastating the health facility, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Saturday.

The hospital, known as M10 and reportedly the largest such facility on the rebel-held side of Aleppo, had already been put out of service before the latest attack, having suffered a heavy bombardment on Wednesday in an assault that UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced as a war crime.

France condemned Saturday's bombing, saying the shelling of healthcare structures and personnel in the besieged Syrian city constituted war crimes.

"Their perpetrators will be held to account," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement. "France is mobilizing at the Security Council as we speak to put a stop to this unacceptable tragedy," he added.

Residents say the latest string of airstrikes are unprecedented in their ferocity, deploying heavier bombs that flatten buildings on top of the people huddled inside. Hundreds of people have been killed in the bombings and many hundreds more wounded, with little access to treatment in hospitals that lack basic supplies.

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 neighborhood, the front line to the north of Aleppo's Old City.

"They are shelling the old city heavily after another failed attempt to gain ground. They have lost several fighters and we are steadfast," said Abu Hamam, a rebel from the Failaq al-Sham group.

The latest strikes come 10 days into a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to capture rebel-held eastern Aleppo and crush the last urban stronghold of a revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad that began in 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone for a third day on Friday, with Russia's top diplomat saying Moscow was ready to consider more ways to normalize the situation in Aleppo.

But Lavrov criticized Washington's failure to separate moderate rebel groups from those the Russians call terrorists, which had allowed forces led by the group formerly known as the Nusra front to violate the U.S.-Russian truce agreed on September 9.

The United States made clear it would not, at least for now, carry through a threat made on Wednesday to halt the diplomacy if Russia did not take immediate steps to end the violence.

Moscow and Assad spurned the cease-fire to launch the new offensive, potentially the biggest and most decisive battle of the civil war, which is now in its sixth year.

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