Surge in air strikes forces hospital closures in northwest Syria
GENEVA - A surge in bombing raids has forced hospitals to close in northwestern Syria, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday.
The raids in the Idlib region and northern Hama have intensified since they began on September 19, and hospitals are closing either after being hit or for fear of being targeted, MSF said in a statement.
After several months of calm, jihadist-controlled Idlib province has been the target of heavy air strikes by the regime and its Russian allies following a jihadist assault in Hama province.
The main hospital in Hama was struck at dawn on Tuesday, MSF said, adding that no one was killed but the facility was shut down.
Three other hospitals have not been operational since being bombed on September 19, the charity said.
Two other important hospitals in the Jisr al-Shughur area were evacuated overnight on Wednesday for fear of new air strikes.
As a result, other hospitals in the region have been overwhelmed with patients.
The key Hama Central/Sham hospital was the only one still able to carry out complex surgical operations as others have been damaged or evacuated.
Nearly 250 people have been taken to other MSF-backed hospitals and clinics in the Idlib region since September 20.
MSF teams have reported 61 deaths in the same period.
"The other hospitals are still operating but the staff live in daily fear of being bombed," MSF said.
More than half the patients are women and children under age 15.
"Hospitals are clearly not being spared from the bombings taking place in Idlib and it is scandalous," said MSF director of operations Brice de le Vingne.
"Fear is causing hospitals to close or reduce their services, which affects everyone -- the sick, the wounded, pregnant women, anyone who needs medical attention," he said.
Russian on President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday agreed to push for the creation of a "de-escalation" zone in Idlib.
Syria's war has cost more than 330,000 lives since 2011.