ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - Syrian air force missiles struck a hospital in a rebel-held area of Aleppo wounding one person, a doctor there said on Wednesday, and Human Rights Watch called it was an attack in violation of international law.
Reuters saw at least two gaping holes in the walls and major damage to four floors of the Al Shifaa Hospital which was hit on Tuesday.
“If we had lingered just another five minutes, we would have died,” said the doctor who identified himself as Dr. Younes. He said he had been performing an operation on the fifth floor just minutes before the attack. He was smeared with blood from treating four patients for shrapnel wounds.
There had been 15 patients in the hospital at the time of the attack, all of whom were transferred elsewhere, he said.
Dust covered hospital beds, incubators were broken, and the floor was scattered with rubble. Water from a broken tank had gathered on the hospital floor, mixing with patches of blood.
Dr. Younes said 90 percent of patients received by the hospital were civilians who needed treatment either for shrapnel or bullet wounds. “The actual team of doctors who worked at this hospital have all left and they’ve been replaced by us, volunteers,” he said.
Citing hospital staff interviewed at the scene, Human Rights Watch said no opposition fighters had been deployed at the hospital at the time of two attacks that had targeted it on August 12 and August 14, and only several armed hospital guards were providing security.
“On the fourth floor of the hospital, Human Rights Watch saw the tail remnants from about a dozen S-5 rockets. These rockets are fired from aircraft with a range of three to four kilometers (two to three miles),” it said in a statement.
The Russian-made S-5 is an unguided rocket originally developed in the 1950s. Though still in production, it is not noted for its accuracy.
“All hospitals, whether civilian or military, are specially protected under international humanitarian law, known as the laws of war. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters,” Human Rights Watch said.
Under the Geneva Conventions hospitals remain protected unless they are ‘used to commit hostile acts’ that are outside their humanitarian function, it added.
“Hospitals, doctors, and ambulances should never be attacked,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “In Aleppo, the Syrian government has flouted this principle of international law.”
Editing by Tom Perry and Jon Hemming