Russia says reports of Syria hospital strike ‘fake’

Maria Zakharova dismissed the widely circulated reports and dismissed the Observatory as lacking credibility

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Moscow on Thursday denied reports of a Russian strike on a clinic in Syria as “fake”, attacking the Britain-based monitoring group behind the reports as no more reliable than a “pizzeria”.

“I want to deny all of this information,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that 13 people including medical staff were killed in Russian air strikes Tuesday against a field hospital in the northwestern province of Idlib that was run by the Syrian-American Medical Society.

A staffer at the clinic confirmed to AFP that the facility was hit and that at least two employees were killed, but did not specify whether the strike was conducted by Russian planes.

Zakharova dismissed the widely circulated reports and dismissed the Observatory as lacking credibility.

“These fakes are often published citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,” Zakharova said in a briefing in Moscow.

“It’s very convenient to report on what is going on in Syria from London without going on the ground,” she said.

In a tirade against Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, she said the group was set up by a British national whom she described as “the owner of a fast food joint” with “neither a journalism degree nor a legal education... not even a secondary education”.

“One might as well cite a waiter in a pizzeria,” she said, adding that Russia would “continue to examine these fakes with close scrutiny.”

Meanwhile, the International Committee for the Red Cross said that Russian air strikes in Syria are making it harder to deliver desperately needed aid to civilians suffering from the country’s brutal war.

“Air bombardment makes it more difficult for us to reach some areas,” said the head of the ICRC’s Middle East and North Africa operations, Robert Mardini.

“More use of weapons in any conflict will create additional difficulties in the humanitarian situation,” he told AFP in an interview in Damascus late Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the ICRC led a convoy of trucks delivering food and medical supplies to towns in western and northwest Syria as part of a truce reached at the end of September.

The six-month ceasefire also included the evacuation of wounded civilians from Fuaa and Kafraya, government-held villages in Syria’s northwest, and Zabadani and Madaya, rebel-held areas along the border with Lebanon.

Mardini said the conditions for safe evacuation “are not present today, and for this reason we are working on achieving them with all sides.

“What happened in terms of aid provision in recent days was a part of the ceasefire and a very good first step and it helped civilians in that area,” Mardini said.

The ICRC is “looking to repeat this operation in other flashpoint and besieged areas” in Syria, including the largely rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

Mardini said his organisation’s budget for Syria this year has been their largest operation worldwide and it would be allocated the same budget next year.

Russia launched an air campaign in Syria on September 30. The West has criticised Moscow for focusing on moderate groups that oppose President Bashar al-Assad rather than on the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

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