BEIRUT (AP) — A series of airstrikes hit a hospital and nearby buildings in the rebel-held part of Syria’s contested city of Aleppo overnight, killing at least 30 people — including two doctors and three children — as the U.N. envoy for Syria appealed early Thursday on the U.S. and Russia to help revive the Syrian peace talks and a cease-fire he said “hangs by a thread.”
The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the deadly airstrikes on Aleppo. He told The Associated Press that the latest violence by government forces shows “the environment is not conducive to any political action.”
The strikes hit shortly before midnight Wednesday, according to opposition activists and rescue workers. They struck a well-known field hospital in the rebel-held district of al-Sukkari in Aleppo. The dead included one of the few pediatricians remaining in the city’s opposition-held areas and a dentist, activists said.
The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 20 were killed, including three children, and that the hospital was completely destroyed.
The Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer first-responders agency, whose members went to the scene of the attack, said the al-Quds hospital and adjacent buildings were struck in four consecutive airstrikes. The agency, also known as the White Helmets, gave a slightly higher toll, saying 22 were killed. It said there were still victims buried under the rubble and that the rescue work continued.
Among those killed were three of the hospital’s medical staff, they said.
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 February 27 cease-fire has been fraying in the past weeks as casualty figures from violence mount, particularly in Aleppo and across northern Syria. Airstrikes earlier this week also targeted a training center for the Syrian Civil Defense, leaving five of its team dead in rural Aleppo.
Since April 19, nearly 200 people have died, including at least 44 in an airstrike on a market place in rebel-held area in northern Idlib province, as well as dozens of civilians in government-held areas from rebel shelling.
The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, briefed the U.N. Security Council via videoconference about the largely stalled indirect talks between the Western- and Saudi-backed opposition and envoys from Assad’s government, which has the backing of Moscow.
He said that after 60 days, the cessation of hostilities agreed to by both sides “hangs by a thread.”
“I really fear that the erosion of the cessation is unraveling the fragile consensus around a political solution, carefully built over the last year,” de Mistura said in his council briefing obtained by The Associated Press. “Now I see parties reverting to the language of a military solution or military option. We must ensure that they do not see that as a solution or an option.”
The talks foundered last week after the main opposition group, called the High Negotiating Committee, suspended its formal participation in the indirect talks with Assad’s envoys to protest alleged government cease-fire violations, a drop in humanitarian aid deliveries and no progress in winning the release of detainees in Syria.