‘Catastrophic impact’ after barrel bombs appear to target Aleppo hospital

AMMAN: The first barrel bomb fell on Aleppo city’s Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital, in a central, rebel-held district, around 12:00 pm on Saturday.

Doctors immediately raced to evacuate the building, ushering patients and medical staff onto the adjacent streets.

But the bombs continued to rain down in rapid succession, as nearby Civil Defense first responders rushed to the scene.

“First came the regime’s barrel bombs,” Ibrahim Abu al-Layth, an Aleppo Civil Defense spokesman, told Syria Direct on Sunday. “Next came the Russian airstrikes.”

The helicopters carrying the barrel bombs flew low, swooping down in order to directly hit the hospital, eyewitnesses told Syria Direct. The aftermath of an estimated 10 barrel bombs on the facility left ambulances, vital medical equipment and large portions of the building’s structure completely destroyed, forcing the hospital—the only such facility serving central Aleppo city—to close its doors.

Located in central Aleppo city’s al-Maadi neighborhood, the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital served hundreds of patients daily prior to the attacks.

 Patients and medical staff evacuate the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital. Photo courtesy of the Aleppo Media Center.

“There’s no understating the importance of this hospital,” Aref Alaref, one of the hospital’s emergency room doctors, told Syria Direct on Sunday. “From critical care to kidney dialysis, the hospital provided life-saving services to hundreds of families.”

Following Saturday’s bombings, which injured six people, medical staff scrambled to relocate patients across the city’s rebel-controlled, eastern facilities until the hospital is rebuilt.

The nearest medical facility is located roughly four to five kilometers away from the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital. While the distance may not seem far, “it can be enough to kill a person,” Ammar al-Halabi, a central-Aleppo-based citizen journalist, told Syria Direct on Monday.

“If there’s a victim of a bombing, and they have to make it to the nearest hospital, those five kilometers can be a considerable distance,” he added. 

The weekend bombings further strain available medical resources across the city’s rebel-held east.

“If just one hospital goes out of service, it has a catastrophic impact on the humanitarian situation across the entire city,” said emergency room doctor Aref Alaref.

 First responders at the hospital on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the Aleppo Media Center.

“Hospitals that were once treating 50 injured patients will now have to treat double that number, if not more,” said journalist Ammar al-Halabi. “There will be increased pressure across the board, especially on the ambulances.”

Warplanes have previously struck near the hospital, incurring minor damage. Saturday’s attack, however, marks the first direct hit, with the airstrikes completely shutting the facility down.

In addition to the Omar bin Abdulaziz Hospital, the barrel bombs also destroyed a small nearby medical clinic.

Neither Syrian nor Russian state media have commented on the attacks. State news agency SANA did report “terrorist rocket attacks” across regime-controlled west Aleppo on Monday.

On July 8, regime forces supported by Iranian militias and Russian air cover, have effectively “fire cut” the last road leading in and out of rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria Direct reported. The regime is holding the Castello Road by carrying out a barrage of roughly 150 strikes per day—including airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery rounds—rendering the route inaccessible.

Last Wednesday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that in the event of a total blockade of rebel-held Aleppo city, the UN and its partners in the area only “have enough food supplies for 145,000 for one month” out of an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 civilians.

Justin Schuster

Justin Schuster graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Affairs and Modern Middle Eastern Studies. He was a 2015-2016 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Justin worked as a reporter and translator with Syria Direct before serving as the Managing Director.

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

Laila Mourad

Leila is from Damascus but moved to Jordan before the Syrian uprising began. She is an engineering student in Amman and hopes to help rebuild her country through journalism.