Three Aleppo hospitals shut down in 24 hours after airstrikes

AMMAN: Three hospitals serving an estimated 600,000 residents of the rebel-held west Aleppo countryside are out of commission on Tuesday after they were struck by warplanes over the course of 24 hours, doctors, rescuers and citizen journalists told Syria Direct.

“There are no hospitals working in the west Aleppo countryside,” Doctor Hassan Obaid, the regional health director for the Atareb area, roughly 25km west of Aleppo city, told Syria Direct on Tuesday. “They’ve all been bombed and done away with.”

“More than 600,000 people are being deprived of medical treatment as a weapon of war,” said Obaid.

Medical and civilian sources in the west Aleppo countryside told Syria Direct on Tuesday that Russian warplanes were involved in the bombings that damaged three hospitals the day and night before, a claim which Syria Direct cannot confirm.

 A defibrillator after the bombing of the Baghdad hospital in west Aleppo. Photo courtesy of Shaam News Network.

Russian state news agency TASS did not report airstrikes in the countryside west of Aleppo city on Monday.

Syrian state media agency SANA reported on Monday that warplanes targeted “positions and movements of the terrorist organizations” in the southwest Aleppo countryside and “destroyed a number of fortified headquarters and machinery.” The agency did not specifically mention strikes in Kafr Naha, Awaijel or Atareb.

The Atareb hospital was one of the facilities bombed on Monday. Obaid said “12 missiles” fired in six air raids struck the facility, which he said has been bombed a total of nine times during the war. The bombing did not destroy the hospital building, he said, but left “all of the equipment unusable until it can be repaired.”

Doctor Mahmoud Maksour, the Atareb hospital’s director, was mildly injured in the attack. He told Syria Direct the hospital is out of service but work is underway to get it up and running again.

“The damage is extensive,” said Maksour, estimating the cost of repairs at up to $50,000. The doctor said the hospital aims to reopen its doors within a week.

The Beauty Hospital in Kafr Naha, a town 10km east of Atareb, was struck by “10 airstrikes” on Tuesday, Doctor Abu Asem, the facility’s medical director told Syria Direct on Tuesday. The bombing caused “wide-scale damage and put the hospital out of service,” he said. Hospital staff and a patient were injured in the attack.

“We can’t repair the hospital right now because of the heavy warplane presence,” said Abu Asem. The Beauty Hospital received 5,000 patients a month, and offered orthopedic surgery, pediatrics and internal medicine, he said.

The last west Aleppo hospital bombing came late Monday night, in the town of Awaijel, 2km northeast of Kafr Naha. The Baghdad Hospital was “completely destroyed,” the Aleppo Civil Defense reported on Tuesday. Pictures and video of the Baghdad hospital show massive structural damage.

Without the three hospitals, residents wounded by the ongoing bombing campaign in west Aleppo can only receive minor treatment locally before they are transported to the Bab al-Hawa hospital near the Turkish border with neighboring Idlib province, said Sari Atallah, a citizen journalist in Kafr Naha. The trip can take “more than 90 minutes,” he said.

“Focusing on bombing hospitals takes the hope of treatment away from the sick and wounded,” said Atallah, “whether fighters or civilians.”

Regional health director Obaid claims the nature of the hospital bombings in west Aleppo has changed in recent days amidst heightened Russian and regime airstrikes in the countryside in general.

“Before, the warplanes would strike the hospital, but wouldn’t seem to care about precision,” said Obaid. “Now, they bomb the hospital with several raids, to be sure to hit and destroy it.”

Heavy aerial bombardment of the west Aleppo countryside continued on Tuesday, the Aleppo Civil Defense reported.

The rescue organization also reported a new intensification of airstrikes in rebel-held east Aleppo city.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Malek Hafez

Malek is originally from Damascus and moved to Jordan in 2013. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Middle East University in Jordan.

Ahmad Jawhar

Before the war, Ahmad was an English teacher in Homs city. He began his journalism career reporting for pro-opposition news outlets in Amman.

Mohammed al-Aseel

Mohammad was a law student at Damascus University when the revolution began. Originally from Daraa, he moved to Jordan in 2013.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.