Russia says two of its medics killed in Aleppo hospital attack

MOSCOW/BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday Syrian rebels had deliberately shelled a Russian military field hospital in Aleppo, killing two female medics and injuring one other.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov said rebels had directed artillery fire at the mobile field hospital after it began receiving civilians and had scored a direct hit on its reception.

“Without doubt the shelling was carried out by ‘opposition’ rebels,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “We know who the rebels got the exact information and coordinates about the hospital reception from.”

The United Nations and medical charities have repeatedly called on warring parties on all sides of Syria’s more than five-year-old civil war not to target medical facilities. Russia is the most powerful ally of Syria’s government against rebels.

Konashenkov said the United States, Britain and France bore responsibility for the attack on the hospital, which was located in a government-held district of embattled Aleppo, because they were supporting the rebels.

“The blood of our personnel is on the hands of those who ordered this murder, those who created, nurtured and armed these animals in human guise.”

He said the attack would be investigated and called on international aid organisations to condemn it.

Russia’s news portal published a video showing rubble and tattered tents at the site. Konashenkov said doctors were battling to save the life of a Russian paediatrician who had been seriously wounded in the attack.

The shelling of the hospital began at 11 a.m. local time on Monday and lasted for one and a half hours, Russian officer Vladimir Savchenko told reporters in Aleppo.

“It was located in an open space and was very clear (to see) and was far from the scene of fighting,” said Savchenko.

“There were no military personnel in the hospital, just doctors who had come to try and help Syrians.”

Aleppo’s health directorate says hospitals in the east of the shattered city have been repeatedly bombed out of service in recent weeks.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow, Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Firas Makdesi in Aleppo; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova/Andrew Osborn; Editing by Mark Heinrich