ALEPPO, Syria: The United States and the United Nations Thursday condemned an airstrike on a hospital in Syria’s Aleppo, with Washington demanding that Russia restrain its Syrian ally.
UN officials also voiced alarm at the “catastrophic deterioration” of the situation in Syria and appealed on world powers to salvage a Feb. 27 truce.
But in Aleppo on Thursday, fighting between rebels and regime forces killed 53 civilians—the highest toll for a single day in a week of violence that has cost more than 200 lives, according to a monitor.
The Syrian army was meanwhile poised to launch an offensive against rebels who control part of the northern city.
Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “outrage” over Wednesday’s air strike that hit Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo’s rebel-held Sukkari neighborhood.
He said it appeared to be “a deliberate strike on a known medical facility” and said Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, must restrain the Damascus regime.
“Russia has an urgent responsibility to press the regime to fulfill its commitments under UNSCR 2254, including in particular to stop attacking civilians, medical facilities, and first responders, and to abide fully by the cessation of hostilities.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said attacks that target civilians are “inexcusable” violations of humanitarian law. “There must be accountability for these crimes,” he said.
The city’s last remaining pediatrician and three children were among the 20 people killed in the air strike overnight on the Al-Quds hospital, which was supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
A civil defense group, known as the White Helmets, told Agence France-Presse that 30 people were killed in the strike on the hospital and a nearby block of flats.
The Aleppo violence has raised fears for the ceasefire in other areas of Syria and called into question the future of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva that have now gone into recess.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that the hard-won Feb. 27 ceasefire was now “barely alive” and could collapse “any time.”
Speaking late Wednesday after a third round of Syria peace talks fizzled out, De Mistura also urged its co-sponsors Russia and the US to take action to rescue it.
He said the US, which supports some rebel groups, and regime ally Russia needed to act, calling on them to organize a high-level Syria meeting before negotiations resume.
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien further raised the alarm on Thursday in remarks made at the UN Security Council.
“We must all be ashamed this is happening on our watch,” said O’Brien, urging world powers to salvage the truce. “You must not squander the opportunity presented by talks in Geneva and by the cessation of hostilities to put an end to the massive human suffering in Syria,” he added.
And the UN’s Jan Egeland, who heads an international humanitarian taskforce for war-ravaged Syria, spoke of a “catastrophic deterioration” of the situation in the country.