Russia warns US not to intervene as hospital is hit in latest Aleppo blitz

Strike by Assad regime’s helicopters leaves residents in east of the war-torn city with next to no access to essential healthcare

An unrelenting Russian and Syrian blitz of eastern Aleppo heavily damaged one of the city’s three remaining hospitals on Saturday, as Moscow warned that any American attempts to stop its assault would lead to “frightening tectonic shifts in the Middle East”.

The Russian raids struck at least five areas of the opposition-held half of the city, which is bracing for a ground assault by Shia forces allied to the Syrian regime. Syrian helicopters are believed to be responsible for the strike on the M10 hospital, which has left those who remain in the east with next to no access to essential healthcare.

Earlier in the week two other emergency centres and the only remaining maternity centre were bombed by jets, prompting a bitter response from US diplomats and vague claims that Washington was “reviewing options” about how to defuse a grave and deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

The attacks on Aleppo have worsened since the breakdown of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US that had barely lasted a week before Russian jets and Syrian helicopters attacked and destroyed an aid convoy that had been permitted to cross into an opposition-held part of the country. The US and Europe have said Russia is acting in flagrant breach of international law. Three days of phone calls between US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov have failed to slow the carnage.

Syrian Civil Defence volunteer weeps after rescuing baby from rubble in Aleppo – video

Leaked recordings of Kerry speaking to Syrians in New York last week underscore the divide between US leaders over how to defuse the conflict and, in particular, how to stop the rampant attacks on civilian targets that continue to ravage much of east Aleppo.

Kerry is known to have advocated a more robust US role in the five-year war, especially after the gassing of more than 1,300 civilians in an opposition neighbourhood of Damascus three years ago. However, his calls have been rebuffed by President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly told his senior officials that nothing good would come out of the US taking a lead role.

In the recordings, which were published by the New York Times, Kerry is heard saying: “We are trying to pursue the diplomacy and I understand it’s frustrating. You have no one more frustrated than we are.” He said that the US had no legal justification for attacking the Assad regime, while Russia had been invited to join the conflict on behalf of the Syrian leader.

Areas of control in Aleppo city and governorate

Kerry and other senior officials have recently argued that US attempts to stem the violence are being ignored and that citizens and some armed groups nominally supported by the US are being left defenceless by Russian and Syrian strikes. A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman warned that “terrorists of all stripes” would fill the void if the US took a more robust stance.

The latest escalation comes on the first anniversary of the Russian intervention, which has been concentrated on northwest Syria and has transformed the battlefield across the country. Hailed initially as a campaign to confront Islamic State, the Russian role has been almost entirely aimed at defeating opposition to Assad, among them regular members of the armed rebel ranks and jihadist groups who often work among them.

Monitoring groups say that more than 3,000 civilians have been killed by Russian and Syrian attacks.


Martin Chulov

The GuardianTramp

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