Work­ers evac­u­ate ba­bies dur­ing Aleppo bomb­ing

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Sarah El Deeb

BEIRUT — Doc­tors and nurses at a pe­di­atric hospi­tal in east­ern Aleppo scram­bled Fri­day to evac­u­ate ba­bies in in­cu­ba­tors to safety from un­der­ground shel­ters af­ter the fa­cil­ity in the be­sieged Syr­ian city was bombed for the sec­ond time this week.

Medics and aid work­ers also re­ported a sus­pected at­tack in­volv­ing toxic gas in a district on the west­ern edge of the re­bel­held area. At least 12 peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, were treated for breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, said Ad­ham Sahloul of the Syr­ian Amer­i­can Med­i­cal So­ci­ety, which sup­ports health fa­cil­i­ties in Aleppo.

Claims of toxic gas attacks are com­mon in Syria, and re­ports by in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors have held the govern­ment re- spon­si­ble for us­ing chem­i­cals in attacks on civil­ians, which Da­m­as­cus de­nies.

Airstrikes also hit a vil­lage in ru­ral ar­eas of Aleppo prov­ince, killing seven mem­bers of a fam­ily, in­clud­ing four chil­dren, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said.

Fri­day was the fourth day of re­newed as­saults by Syr­ian war­planes on east­ern Aleppo dis­tricts, a rebel-held en­clave of 275,000 peo­ple. The on­slaught be­gan Tues­day, when Rus­sia, an ally of Syria, an­nounced its own of­fen­sive on the north­ern rebel-con­trolled Idlib prov­ince and Homs prov­ince in cen­tral Syria.

Since then, more than 100 peo­ple have been killed across north­ern Syria.

Fri­day’s airstrikes in Aleppo hit a com­plex of four hospi­tals that had been at­tacked two days ear­lier. The lat­est strikes forced the pe­di­atric hospi­tal and a neigh- bor­ing fa­cil­ity to stop op­er­at­ing.

“Now it is be­ing bombed. I am sorry. I have to go to trans­fer the chil­dren,” the head of the pe­di­atric hospi­tal wrote in a text mes­sage to the As­so­ci­ated Press. The doc­tor iden­ti­fied him­self only by his first name of Hatem be­cause he fears reprisals against his fam­ily.

The in­cu­ba­tors al­ready had been moved un­der­ground, but with bombs fall­ing all around the fa­cil­ity, hospi­tal work­ers had to rush them to a safer place de­spite the dan­ger.

Hatem rushed 14 ba­bies in in­cu­ba­tors to an­other fa­cil­ity a 10-minute drive away while airstrikes con­tin­ued, he said in a later mes­sage.

“As we drove out with the am­bu­lance, war­planes were fir­ing and ar­tillery were shelling,” he wrote. “But thank God wewere not hurt.”

Some of the sur­vivors of the sus­pected gas at­tack were taken to the chil­dren’s hospi­tal.

The cam­eras of Al-Jazeera, which was broad­cast­ing from the fa­cil­ity dur­ing the airstrikes, went dark for a mo­ment. When video re­sumed, dust was swirling and de­bris was strewn in the cor­ri­dors.

Nurses scur­ried to get ba­bies to safety, and one was seen car­ry­ing a blan­ketwrapped in­fant. She then hugged and com­forted an­other nurse who was sob­bing as she picked up a baby.

An­other hospi­tal in a dif­fer­ent Aleppo neigh­bor­hood was bombed Thurs­day night, the doc­tor told AP. The en­trance was set on fire but no one was hurt.

Only four of seven hospi­tals are still op­er­at­ing in the district, Sahloul said.

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