Russia rejects Syria war crimes claim

Media captionThe horrifying statistics that define Syria

Russia says it “categorically rejects” accusations of war crimes over the bombing of hospitals in Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “those who make such statements are not capable of backing them up with proof”.

Up to 50 people were killed in missile attacks on at least four hospitals and two schools in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Monday.

The UN said the “deliberate” targeting of such facilities “could amount to war crimes”, according to Reuters.

Turkey’s foreign ministry has blamed Russia for the attacks.

A Turkish official on Tuesday said it would back a ground operation in Syria but only “with our international allies.

“There is not going to be a unilateral military operation from Turkey to Syria,” the unnamed official told reporters in Istanbul.

Ceasefire doubts

Monday’s strikes struck two hospitals and two schools in Azaz, near the border with Turkey, and at least two hospitals in Maarat al-Numan, further south.

One of the hospitals in Maarat al-Numan was run by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which called the attack a “deliberate” strike.

Media captionMedecins Sans Frontieres charity suggests attacks on hospitals were ‘deliberate’

The strikes came days after world powers – including Russia – agreed to work towards a selective truce in Syria, due to begin later this week.

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met Syria’s foreign minister on Tuesday to discuss one of the key priorities of the truce – “unhindered humanitarian access to all besieged areas”.

However, there was no word on when aid convoys might reach besieged areas.

Earlier, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cast doubt over the “cessation of hostilities” plan, saying it did not mean all the parties would put down their weapons.

“So far they say they want a ceasefire within a week,” he said in his first comments of Friday’s agreement. “Who is capable of gathering all these conditions and requirements within a week?”

Almost five years of civil war in Syria have led to the deaths of more than 250,000 people. More than 11 million people have been displaced.

What does the law say about bombing hospitals?

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The clear-up operation on the bombed hospital has now begun in earnest

  • International humanitarian law bans any attack on patients and medical personnel or indeed any attack on medical facilities, unless they are used for military purposes
  • However, even if they are identified as a military objective, such a target must not be attacked if the scale of collateral civilian casualties is likely to be disproportionate to the military gain
  • Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited

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