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Child among 5 said killed in regime attack on hospital in rebel area of Syria

Shells land in courtyard of medical center in Atareb, says rescue group; building reportedly suffers significant damage

A man stands amid the debris at the entrance of a field hospital in the the village of Atareb in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on March 21, 2021, after it was reportedly targeted by regime shelling. (AAREF WATAD / AFP)
A man stands amid the debris at the entrance of a field hospital in the the village of Atareb in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on March 21, 2021, after it was reportedly targeted by regime shelling. (AAREF WATAD / AFP)

BEIRUT — Artillery shells fired from government areas hit a hospital in a rebel-controlled town in northwestern Syria on Sunday, killing at least five civilians and wounding medical staff, rescuers and activists reported.

The shells landed at the entrance and in the courtyard of the hospital in Atareb, a town in rural western Aleppo, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The hospital is located underground, a tactic used by the opposition to avoid targeting in the conflict-prone area.

The explosion killed at least five civilians, including a child and a woman, and injured medical staff, according to the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers, known as the White Helmets. A video posted on the local health directorate’s Facebook page showed debris and bloodstains at the entrance of the hospital.

Fadi Hakim, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the hospital, said the structural damage includes the destruction of the orthopedic clinic and the emergency room.

“The hospital has been evacuated for the moment,” he said. Hakim said he could confirm only four killed, including a child, and 15 injured, five of them medical staff.

A man walks past a damaged room at the entrance of a field hospital in the the village of Atareb in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on March 21, 2021, after it was reportedly targeted by regime shelling. (AAREF WATAD / AFP)

Attacks on hospitals are common in the Syria conflict and are mostly blamed on the government and allied forces. The health directorate in the rebel-controlled northwest said the attack Sunday was the first on a medical facility in the region since February 2020.

The US-based Physicians for Human Rights has documented 598 attacks on at least 350 separate health care facilities in Syria since March 2011, the vast majority of them allegedly committed by the Syrian government and allied forces, including Russia. In the same 10-year period, at least 930 medical personnel were killed, the rights group said.

The government views rebel-held areas as controlled by terrorists.

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