Date
24 January 2017
Residents stand on a balcony above a photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a televised interview, Assad rejected a ceasefire proposal, saying it's "difficult" to implement". Photo: Reuters
Residents stand on a balcony above a photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a televised interview, Assad rejected a ceasefire proposal, saying it's "difficult" to implement". Photo: Reuters

US blames Russia for 50 deaths in Syria school, hospital attacks

Russia is being implicated in air strikes on medical facilities and schools in Syria that the United Nations says has killed almost 50 civilians.

The UN joined the United States in condemning the attacks which Washington blamed on Russian efforts to shore up the government of President Bashar al-Assad, French news agency AFP reports. 

Assad rejected a plan for a ceasefire to begin later this week, saying it would be “difficult” to implement.

The UN said air strikes on at least five medical facilities and two schools in northern Syria’s Aleppo and Idlib provinces killed nearly 50 civilians including children.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon considers that “such attacks are blatant violations of international law”, said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

The US, which like the UN did not identify who carried out the air strikes, said two civilian hospitals were hit in and around Aleppo in northern Syria: one run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and another in Azaz city.

Such action “casts doubt on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people”, the State Department said.

But Syria’s ambassador to Moscow, Riad Haddad, said the hospital had been the target of a US raid.

“American warplanes destroyed it. Russian warplanes had nothing to do with any of it — the information that has been gathered will completely back that up,” he told Russia’s state television channel Rossiya 24.

Meanwhile, Turkey resumed shelling Kurdish-led forces in several parts of Aleppo, alarmed by their recent advances against mostly Islamist rebels.

Ankara accuses the Kurdish forces of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.

The increasing violence on the ground in Syria and war of words between Ankara and Moscow have dampened hopes that a proposed cessation of hostilities will take hold this week.

“They are saying they want a ceasefire in a week. Who is capable of gathering all the conditions and requirements in a week? No one,” Assad said in televised remarks.

“A ceasefire must mean stopping terrorists from strengthening their positions. Moving weapons, equipment, terrorists or strengthening positions must all be forbidden.”

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CG/RA

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