A Doctors Without Borders–supported hospital in a rebel-held area of Syria was destroyed late Wednesday night by a wave of nighttime airstrikes, according to the organization and another humanitarian group that rushed to the scene. Opposition leaders quickly blamed Bashar al-Assad’s government for the attacks.
The medical nonprofit—also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF—pegged the initial death toll at 14 people, including both patients and medical workers, but said that it expected that number to rise. And the Civil Defense—a volunteer first-responder agency that deployed its members to the scene—estimated the figure to be 30, including at least a half-dozen hospital staff, according to the Associated Press.
The strikes occurred shortly before midnight and appeared to decimate what aid groups described as a well-known field hospital in the rebel-held portion of the city of Aleppo. The deadly development instantly threatened to undo an uneasy two-month cease-fire and the fragile peace talks between the government and the opposition. Here’s the AP with more:
The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the deadly airstrikes. … Alloush, who was one of the leading negotiators of the opposition in the Geneva talks, described the airstrikes as one of the latest “war crimes” of Assad’s government. “Whoever carries out these massacres needs a war tribunal and a court of justice to be tried for his crimes. He does not need a negotiating table,” Alloush told the AP in a telephone interview. “Now, the environment is not conducive for any political action.”
The government and much of the opposition agreed to the cease-fire—technically a “cessation of hostilities”—on Feb. 27, but while that deal may have slowed the killing, it did not stop it, in part because several factions did not sign on. According to the AP, nearly 200 people have died since April 19 as the result of government airstrikes in opposition-held areas and rebel shelling in government-held ones. A Syrian research group issued a report earlier this year that estimated that at least 470,000 Syrians have already died as a result of the five-year civil war.
The airstrike on the MSF-supported facility comes roughly six months after U.S. Special Forces bombed a trauma center staffed by the medical nonprofit in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 42 people in what the top U.S. commander in the country later called it a “tragic mistake.” An Army investigation into what went wrong there isexpected to be released on Friday.