Reuters International

Smoke rises from an emergency service point after an airstrike at the rebel-held village of Maar Zita in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Jets believed to be Russian or Syrian hit two hospitals in rebel-held Idlib province on Thursday following several other strikes on medical facilities in northwestern Syria in recent weeks, residents, medical workers and activists said.

Rescue workers said one strike early on Thursday hit a hospital in Deir al Sharqi, killing at least three medics and injuring others. The second strike hit a cave hospital in Maar Zita village in southern Idlib province where medics said at least five were killed.

"The regime and the Russians are trying to systematically target the remaining hospitals in Idlib to make life for people in liberated areas intolerable," said Younis Abdul Rahim, a civil defence worker who visited both sites.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly denied that his forces target hospitals or other emergency facilities. Russia, whose air force joined the war on his side in 2015, also denies targeting civilian infrastructure.

Rescue workers say that, although many field hospitals have been moved underground, that has not been enough to protect them from bombs they say have hit at least eight medical facilities since the start of the month.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it was appalled by the ongoing damage of medical facilities in northern Syria, adding that the destruction was depriving thousands of people of basic health services.

Among the hospitals put out of service was one specialising in maternity and child care, the OCHA said on Wednesday.

An air strike believed to be conducted by either Syrian or Russian jets hit a hospital in Kafr Takharim in Idlib on Tuesday and medical workers said at least 14 were killed, among them patients.

"It is completely unacceptable that facilities and people who are trying to save lives are being bombed," said Kevin Kennedy, the OCHA's regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis. Hospital attacks have killed hundreds of medical personnel since the war began, he added.

Syrian civil defence emergency workers who track jet movement and radio traffic to warn civilians of potential air strikes say Syria's air force and Russian jets have recently intensified their bombardment of Idlib province.

Tens of thousands of displaced Syrians have found refuge in the province that borders Turkey after being driven out of their homes. It is a main stronghold of the opposition forces, mainly Islamist-led rebel groups.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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