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More Than A Dozen, Including A Pediatrician, Killed In Attack On Syrian Hospital


In Syria, an airstrike on a hospital signals the near total collapse of what's been a shaky cease-fire. Activists say 27 people were killed in the strike on the hospital. This happened in a rebel-held area of the divided city Aleppo. One of those killed was a pediatrician known for his bedside manner. NPR's Alice Fordham reports.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: For the last couple of months, we've seen far fewer videos like this of the aftermath of an airstrike.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: Now, the grisly scenes uploaded by activists are appearing again, thick and fast. In this one, men weep next to hospital reduced in parts to rubble. They're listening for the voices of survivors.

The hospital was supported by Doctors Without Borders which said that among those killed was pediatrician Muhammad Wassim Maaz. He was one of a few dozen doctors left in the opposition areas of Aleppo helping a population of about 250,000. I Skyped with another pediatrician who works there who, for security, goes by a nickname Hatem Abu Yazan. He remembered his friend.

HATEM ABU YAZAN: He's very kind. He's lovely. Always childrens in Aleppo love him very much. He used to have a smile on his face always. He always used to joke with his patients.

FORDHAM: Doctors Without Borders says it was a direct strike. The only known strikes on rebel-held areas like this one have been by the Syrian Air Force or their Russian allies. Russia and Syria both denied the attack. But the State Department said it appeared to be a deliberate strike and similar to previous attacks on health facilities by the regime. Abu Yazan heard the news about his friend last night.

ABU YAZAN: It's very terrible. I cried about two hours because he's very close to me.

FORDHAM: Abu Yazan says his friend was looking forward to a short break to visit his parents in Turkey. They were talking about it the last time the two were together three days ago. The doctor says that after years of violence in Aleppo and several attacks on health facilities this year, he had welcomed a truce brokered by Russia and the U.S.

ABU YAZAN: From two months, it was better. It was better than the last year, I can say.

FORDHAM: He had even been optimistic there might be peace in Syria.

ABU YAZAN: Since two months, I think the crisis will start to finish, but I was wrong and disappointed.

FORDHAM: The U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura who has been leading talks in Geneva said he, too, is fearful the cease-fire is going to collapse entirely.


STAFFAN DE MISTURA: It's still alive, but barely. And the perception is that it could collapse anytime.

FORDHAM: De Mistura has been acting as a go-between as the Syrian government and opposition sit in separate rooms in the U.N. in Geneva. But talks have so far achieved little. Some analysts think that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now beginning an offensive to crush the opposition in Aleppo, even that he used the cease-fire to strengthen his forces. And rebel fighters, too, have recommenced operations. Rebel shelling killed about 20 civilians in regime-controlled areas of Aleppo. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.