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France condemns Syria 'war crimes' as barrel bombs hit Aleppo hospital

Thaer Mohammed, AFP | The Aleppo hospital that was bombed on Saturday had already been hit earlier in the week.

France condemned the bombing on Saturday of a hospital in Syria's Aleppo, saying the shelling of healthcare structures and personnel in the besieged city constituted war crimes.

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"Their perpetrators will be held to account," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement.

"France is mobilising at the Security Council as we speak to put a stop to this unacceptable tragedy," he added.

At least two barrel bombs hit the largest hospital in the rebel-held side of Aleppo early on Saturday, the medical organisation that supports it said.

The facility, known as M10, had already been hit by heavy bombardment on Wednesday along with the second-largest hospital in the area in what UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced as "war crimes”.

"Two barrel bombs hit the M10 hospital and there were reports of a cluster bomb as well," Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said of Saturday's attack.

Sahloul said a small group of patients and doctors "were inside the hospital for basic triage, bandaging and cleaning services for emergency cases" when the bombardment began and remain trapped there.

SAMS radiologist and hospital administrator Mohammad Abu Rajab made an urgent call for help on Saturday morning from inside M10.

"The hospital is being destroyed! SOS, everyone!" he said in an audio message distributed to journalists.

Wednesday's bombardment had already heavily damaged the M10 facility and left only six fully functional hospitals in the city's east, according to SAMS.

The World Health Organization has called Syria the most dangerous place in the world for health workers.

'Killing box'

Aleppo, once Syria's vibrant commercial powerhouse, is now at the heart of a major military campaign by President Bashar al-Assad's fighters and his steadfast ally Moscow.

The offensive, announced on September 22, has seen dozens of civilians killed and residential buildings flattened in the east, where an estimated 250,000 people live under government siege.

More than 220 people have been killed by bombardment on Aleppo's east, including six children and 12 other civilians on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Saturday, regime loyalists backed by heavy raids advanced on the edges of the Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood in Aleppo's north, the Observatory said.

The battle for Aleppo has sparked some of the most brutal violence since the March 2011 beginning of Syria's conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced over half the population.

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical charity warned Friday that "bombs are raining" over the city, turning east Aleppo into "a giant killing box".

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting across the country have all but collapsed.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday accused Washington of protecting jihadist groups in its effort to overthrow Assad.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia was in danger of becoming "a pariah nation" and the attacks in Aleppo were "unquestionably a war crime".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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