By Baran Hines
Rockets fired by militants in Syria’s Aleppo hit a Al-Dabit hospital, a medical facility in a government controlled area of the city. Reports of casualties have varied but the attacks may have killed over 20 people and injured dozens more, as first reported by Syrian state television on Tuesday.
“(Dozens) martyred and wounded in rockets fired by terrorists at al-Dabit Hospital,” a news update said on state TV. According to multiple reports, the hospital has been heavily damaged and is currently not functioning. Other attacks by opposition groups hit areas of Aleppo controlled by the government on Tuesday. There is also a school near the hospital which may have been damaged.
This attack comes less than a week after Al-Quds hospital, in rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo, was bombed in overnight airstrikes blamed on the Syrian government. Officials from both the Syrian and Russian governments have disputed responsibility for the attacks and claimed to have evidence of Western coalition airplanes over Aleppo.
Tuesday’s attack by the opposition represents a microcosm of the situation in Syria and particularly the dense urban city of Aleppo, where extremist groups take the leading roles in fighting.
The hospital was targeted during an ongoing operation by multiple opposition groups including Jahbat Al-Nusra, a radical terrorist group known as Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Al Nusra is the group which the United States government claimed was a moderate rebel group until repeated criminal acts forced the U.S. to recognize them as a terrorist group in December 2012. Similar designations were made by the United Nations Security Council and other countries observing the war.
The other groups responsible for the cooperative opposition efforts in Aleppo are Jaish-al-Islam and Ahrar-al-Sham, the groups which Russia requested last week to add as exceptions to the ceasefire agreement because they commit war crimes as well. Removing these groups from the ceasefire agreement would allow them to be targeted by the Syrian government, attacks which are currently seen as violations of the ceasefire.
Syrian government forces have been targeting Jaish-al-Islam and Ahrar-al-Sham in Aleppo also because they are usually mixed together with Al Nusra fighters in many areas. Western media and the American government claim the Syrian government continues to violate the ceasefire agreement based on attacks targeting these groups.
The U.S. government has generally been against the Syrian government forces campaign to retake Aleppo. The logic cited by the U.S. State Department is that these groups and others labeled as moderate are making the situation more complex by remaining in the same areas of Aleppo with Al Nusra.
State Department spokesman John Kirby was questioned about this in an exchange on April 25, which became an argument with Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee and others as Lee stated that U.S. efforts have failed to persuade opposition groups to separate from Al-Nusra.
APRIL 25, 2016
MR LEE: But now you’re saying that you’re telling them that they should move away but that that’s not telling them to move away. You’re saying – again, it’s like this — It’s like some bizarre alternate universe.
MR KIRBY: Look, I mean, I don’t want to get into military tactics with you guys. But you can still fight people without being in the same block of houses with them. I mean, there are ways to continue to press what advantages. But we want them to abide by the cessation.
MR LEE: I understand that, but, I mean, so you’re telling them just to move a little bit away?
MR KIRBY: No.
MR LEE: Or to take —
MR KIRBY: Look, Matt – Matt, you’re overthinking this, Matt. I mean, we’re just simply advising them of the dangers of being intermingled with groups that are not party to the cessation. They have to make their own decisions.
The other thing that we are asking them to do and advising them to do is two things: to abide by the cessation – and Saeed noted press reports that would indicate that not all of them are – and number two, to continue to work towards the political process, to continue to be a participant in the talks that unfortunately — did not happen – did not finish in Geneva.
MR LEE: They’re doing neither.