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MSF-supported clinic in Syria destroyed by airstrike, Doctors Without Borders says

A human rights group blames Russian warplanes for the airstrike on a clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders that killed at least seven people.
People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on Feb. 15, 2016. (Photo by Ghaith Omran/AFP/Getty)
People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on Feb. 15, 2016.

At least seven people died in an airstrike on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders in Syria, the aid organization said Monday.

Doctors Without Borders said eight staff members also were missing and presumed dead following what appeared to be "a deliberate attack" on the facility in Idlib province's town of Maaret al-Numan.

The aid group, which is also known as MSF, said five patients, a caretaker and a guard were among the dead. Other patients were still missing but their numbers were not currently known, MSF added.

"This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure," the group's head of mission, Massimiliano Rebaudengo, said in a statement. "We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."

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The hospital — which had 54 staff, two operating theaters, an outpatient department and an emergency room — was reportedly hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to MSF.

MSF did not suggest who may have been behind the attack, though the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed Russian warplanes.

MSF has strongly condemned the rising number of attacks on medical facilities, which are protected under international law.

An accidental U.S. airstrike on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan last year left 42 people dead in what the group suggested could be a war crime.

Last week, an airstrike hit an MSF hospital in southern Syria, killing three people and wounding at least six.

MSF said Monday that in addition to the Idlib airstrike there were reports that two hospitals unaffiliated with the group had been attacked in neighboring Aleppo province.

The U.N. children's agency confirmed it had received reports that two UNICEF-supported hospitals in the Azaz area of Aleppo province had been attacked, along with two schools.

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According to the Associated Press, at least five people were killed and dozens wounded when a missile struck a hospital for women and children in Azaz. Seven people were killed when an airstrike hit a school in the nearby village of Kaljibrin, the AP reported.

Alaaeddin Alzaeem went to help with the rescue efforts after rockets hit the hospital for women and children in Azaz city.

"It's broken in the hospital — everything," he told NBC News by Skype.

He too blamed Russian warplanes for dropping the rockets on Monday.

"The streets, all, it's empty because Russians target Azaz," he said. "Russia and the regime killing us every day, and nobody do anything."

Moscow says its airstrikes in Syria target terrorist groups — including ISIS — but Western officials have accused Russia of launching strikes in support of Syrian government forces.

Amnesty International said Monday's airstrikes were "just the latest" in "scores of apparently deliberate attacks" on hospitals and medical facilities.

"Russian and Syrian forces know full well that deliberate attacks on medical facilities are war crimes," the rights group said in a statement. "All parties to the conflict must cease such horrific attacks, stop destroying medical facilities and allow medical workers to carry out their life-saving work without fear of being killed or injured in the line of duty."

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