Rus­sia warns US not to at­tack Syr­ian forces

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Bassem Mroue

Rus­sia warned the United States Satur­day against car­ry­ing out any at­tacks on Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces, say­ing it would have reper­cus­sions across the Mid­dle East as gov­ern­ment forces cap­tured a hill on the edge of the north­ern city of Aleppo un­der the cover of airstrikes.

Rus­sian news agen­cies quoted For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Maria Zakharova as say­ing that a U.S. in­ter­ven­tion against the Syr­ian army “will lead to ter­ri­ble, tec­tonic con­se­quences not only on the ter­ri­tory of this coun­try but also in the re­gion on the whole.”

She said regime change in Syria would cre­ate a vac­uum that would be “quickly filled” by “ter­ror­ists of all stripes.”

U.S.-Rus­sian ten­sions over Syria have es­ca­lated since the break­down of a cease-fire last month, with each side blam­ing the other for its fail­ure. Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces backed by Rus­sian war­planes have launched a ma­jor on­slaught on rebel-held parts of the north­ern city of Aleppo.

Syr­ian troops pushed ahead in their of­fen­sive in Aleppo on Satur­day, cap­tur­ing the strate­gic Um al-Shuqeef hill near the Pales­tinian refugee camp of Han­darat that gov­ern­ment forces cap­tured from rebels ear­lier this week, ac­cord­ing to state TV. The hill is on the north­ern edge of the Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and for­mer com­mer­cial cen­ter.

The pow­er­ful ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Ahrar al-Sham mil­i­tant group said rebels re­gained con­trol Satur­day of sev­eral po­si­tions they lost in Aleppo in the Bus­tan al-Basha neigh­bor­hood.

State me­dia said 13 peo­ple were wounded when rebels shelled the cen­tral gov­ern­ment-held neigh­bor­hood of Mi­dan.

Airstrikes on Aleppo struck a hos­pi­tal in the east­ern rebel-held neigh­bor­hood of Sakhour, putting it out of ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights and the Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees. They said one per­son was killed in the airstrike.

Op­po­si­tion ac­tivist Ah­mad Alkhatib de­scribed the hos­pi­tal, known as M10, as one of the largest in Aleppo.

He posted pho­to­graphs on his Twit­ter ac­count show­ing the dam­age.

A doc­tor at the hos­pi­tal told the Aleppo Me­dia Cen­ter, an ac­tivist col­lec­tive, that thou­sands of peo­ple were treated in the com­pound in the past, adding that two peo­ple were killed in Satur­day’s airstrikes and sev­eral were wounded.

“A real catas­tro­phe will hit med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions in Aleppo if the di­rect shelling con­tin­ues to tar­get hospi­tals and clin­ics,” said the doc­tor, whose name was not given. He said the whole hos­pi­tal is out of ser­vice.

Op­po­si­tion ac­tivists have blamed Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s forces and Rus­sia for airstrikes that hit Civil De­fense units and clin­ics in the city, where east­ern rebel-held neigh­bor­hoods are be­sieged by gov­ern­ment forces and pro-gov­ern­ment mili­ti­a­men.

On Fri­day, the in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders de­manded that the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and its al­lies “halt the in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing that has killed and wounded hun­dreds of civil­ians, many of them chil­dren,” over the past week in Aleppo.

“Bombs are rain­ing from Syr­i­aled coali­tion planes and the whole of east Aleppo has be­come a gi­ant kill box,” said Xisco Vil­la­longa, direc­tor of op­er­a­tions for the group.

“The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment must stop the in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing, and Rus­sia, as an in­dis­pens­able po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary ally of Syria has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to ex­ert the pres­sure to stop this.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

A Syr­ian man holds a girl as he stands on the rub­ble of houses de­stroyed by Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria, in 2014. On Satur­day, airstrikes hit a hos­pi­tal in a rebel-con­trolled por­tion of the city, killing at least one per­son.

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