The United Nations called for an end to airstrikes against hospitals in Syria, and said they are concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children in Aleppo as the fighting rages.
The United Nations Children’s Fund said Wednesday it is “extremely” concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children caught up in the violence engulfing the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, including the rebel-held eastern neighborhoods under government siege.
The UNICEF statement came as the city witnessed intense fighting as insurgents tried for the third day to break the government siege imposed on opposition-held parts of the city since mid-July.
UNICEF’s regional director Saad Houry called for unhindered humanitarian access to the divided city and for children to be protected. UNICEF said that children make up a third of the 300,000 residents trapped in rebel-held besieged neighborhoods.
In the western, government-controlled areas, UNICEF said 25,000 people have been displaced and are taking shelter from intense fighting in mosques, university campuses and public gardens.
Hospitals are being targeted
“The United Nations is deeply disturbed by the ongoing destruction of civilian infrastructure, particularly medical facilities, across the country,” according to a statement by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
The UN has in recent days received reports of five hospitals hit by airstrikes, including three in Aleppo and one each in Daraa and Idlib, Dujarric said.
He said additional attacks reported July 31 and Aug. 1 damaged Apeppo’s electricity and water distribution systems, leaving thousands without access to either.
“The UN continues to call on all parties to the conflict to end the destruction of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure that is essential for the civilian population, and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and the international human rights law,” Dujarric said.
The New York-based Physicians for Human Rights said in a statement Wednesday that over the past week, Syrian government forces launched deadly airstrikes against six hospitals in and around Aleppo. It said the attacks were the worst week for attacks on medical facilities in that region since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
The group said it verified each attack. It said all six facilities hit between July 23 and July 31 were major hospitals in Aleppo governorate, including a referral hospital just outside opposition-held eastern Aleppo and a pediatric clinic inside the city where four infants died after their oxygen supply was cut.
“Since June, we’ve seen increasing reports of attacks on civilians in Aleppo and strikes on the region’s remaining medical infrastructure. Each of these assaults constitutes a war crime,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “Destroying hospitals is tantamount to signing thousands of death warrants for people now stranded in eastern Aleppo.”