Twenty two civilians have died after Syrian government forces shelled a displacement camp and hospital, as Bashar al-Assad continues to pound the last pocket of opposition-held territory in the country,rescue workers and residents have said.
The camp hosting 7,000 people near the village of Qah in Idlib province was hit by a ground-to-ground missile on Wednesday night carrying illegal cluster-bomb sub munitions. The attack killed at least 16 people, injured dozens more and started fires which blazed through the flimsy tents.
Another rocket damaged the Qah maternity hospital 30 metres away from the camp, killing two women and six children and injuring four medical workers, the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams) said in a statement. All patients were evacuated and the facility has now been abandoned.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russian military aircraft targeted the town of Maaret al-Numan in southern Idlib, killing six.
“All the children started crying, people started running towards the olive orchards trying to escape,” said Zaher Ghara’a, a 42-year-old resident who has lived in the camp for six years.
“I saw tents burning then heard the White Helmets [Syrian civil defence service], ambulances and fire engines approaching. My cousin’s van was damaged but the tyres were still good so he helped transporting people to hospitals. It was covered in blood by the time he finished.”
It took two hours to extinguish the fires and evacuate the wounded, said Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, a White Helmets spokesman, adding that the area was still off-limits on Thursday due to unexploded ordnance.
Bombardment by Assad’s forces and his Russian allies has killed more than 1,300 people and sent almost 1 million fleeing to the Turkish border since an attack on Idlib and the surrounding countryside began in April.
Wednesday’s attack on Qah, however, was much further north than the campaign’s parameters to date, sparking fears that the already ferocious assault could escalate.
Aid agencies have repeatedly warned that attacking Idlib puts the lives of 3 million civilians in danger and could trigger the worst humanitarian disaster of the almost nine-year war to date.
The incident at the Qah clinic marks the 65th attack on 47 health facilities in the area since April.
The facility was supposedly on a UN no-strike list shared with parties active in Syrian airspace, but Damascus and Moscow have been repeatedly accused of using the GPS coordinates to deliberately target civilian infrastructure. (Source: The Guardian)