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Amnesty: Russian, Syrian Airstrikes Target Hospitals Deliberately

People look for survivors in the ruins of a destroyed Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) supported hospital hit by missiles in Marat Numan, Idlib province, Syria, February 16, 2016.

Amnesty International accused Russian and Syrian forces Thursday of deliberately targeting Syrian hospitals and medical facilities with airstrikes to ease the path for pro-regime ground forces advancing on northern Aleppo.

Tirana Hassan, the humanitarian group's crisis response director, said of the past three months of air raids: “Syrian and Russian forces have been deliberately attacking health facilities in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. But what is truly egregious is that wiping out hospitals appears to have become part of their military strategy."

Amnesty International said it had "compelling evidence" of attacks on six health-care facilities that killed three civilians, including a medical worker, and injured 44 others.

The group said information gathered from medical workers in Anadan and Hreitan, two towns near Aleppo, made clear that the strategy of Syrian government forces and their Russian military supporters was to empty a town of its population by destroying health-care facilities, water and electricity systems, to facilitate a ground invasion.

Cease-fire largely holding

Amnesty International's broadside against Russia and Syria came as the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said a six-day-old partial cease-fire in the civil war is largely holding.

FILE - The ruins of a hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria are seen in this image provided by Doctors Without Borders Feb. 15 2016.
FILE - The ruins of a hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria are seen in this image provided by Doctors Without Borders Feb. 15 2016.

Despite sporadic clashes, de Mistura told reporters, the truce has "greatly reduced" violence after five years of devastating civil war in Syria.

The U.N. envoy is in Geneva for a meeting of a task force led by the United States and Russia to monitor the situation in Syria.

Diplomats said the partial cease-fire that began last week is "a cessation of hostilities" that permits continuing attacks on the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.

"The situation is fragile. Success is not guaranteed, but progress is visible," de Mistura said. He is planning to start a new round of Syrian peace talks on March 9.

A U.N. humanitarian official reported progress is being made to dispatch food and medical supplies to parts of Syria that have been trapped by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels trying to overthrow his regime.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that a nationwide power outage hit the country Thursday, but the cause was not immediately known. Damascus residents said that mobile Internet connections were also not working.