Deadly air strikes have targeted two hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria's north west, where regime forces backed by Russian warplanes have launched a major offensive in recent weeks. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said a medical structure it supports in Idlib province was flattened by four rockets that hit within a few minutes of each other.
Rescuers could be seen searching through the rubble for the at least eight staff members that the humanitarian organisation said are missing, in online footage purportedly from the scene.
Separately, missile fire targeted a hospital and a school in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo near the Turkish border, killing at least 14 people, residents told Reuters. The building housed some of the tens of thousands of refugees displaced by the advance of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in the area.
Russian warplanes and government forces have been pounding rebel position in both Azaz and Idlib and areas in recent weeks.
MSF said its hospital, located in Maarat al-Numan, a strategic city that lies on a main road connecting Homs and Aleppo, was deliberately hit. The facility 30-bed hospital had 54 staff.
"This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms," said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF's head of mission. "The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict."
Monitoring groups said at least nine people, including a child, were killed. "A building that housed a hospital supported by MSF was destroyed on Monday by aircraft, presumably Russian," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) told AFP.
The incident came just days after another MSF facility in the country was targeted. Three people were killed and at least six, including a nurse, were wounded in the air strike on Tafas field hospital, near the Jordanian border in the southern Dara'a Governorate, the humanitarian organisation said.
On 13 February, Russia denied accusations from bombing campaign in support of the Assad regime was causing civilian casualties. "There is no evidence of our bombarding civilians even though everyone is accusing us; that is just not true," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls had used the same stage as a platform to accuse Moscow of killing innocent Syrians. "The Russian bombing of civilians has to stop," he said. In January, SOHR said it documented more than 1,000 civilian fatalities caused by Russian warplanes, including 238 minors and 137 women.