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ALEPPO – The largest hospital in rebel-held east Aleppo was bombed for the second time in days as Syrian government forces pressed a Russian-backed offensive to retake the entire city.
Aleppo, once Syria’s vibrant commercial powerhouse, is now at the heart of a major military campaign by President Bashar al-Assad’s fighters and his steadfast ally Moscow.
The offensive, announced on September 22, has seen dozens of civilians killed and residential buildings flattened in the east, where an estimated 250,000 people live under government siege.
Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting across the country have all but collapsed.
However, the foreign ministers of the United States and Russia, which brokered a week-long truce deal that collapsed last month, spoke by phone on Saturday.
The foreign ministry in Moscow said on Facebook that Sergei Lavrov spoke to his American counterpart John Kerry and they “examined the situation in Syria, including the possibility of normalizing the situation around Aleppo.”
It said “illegal armed groups’’ continue fighting in the city despite Russian-US agreements.
And Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned the US against taking any direct action against Damascus or the Syrian army.
“It will lead to terrible, tectonic shifts not only on the territory of this country but also in the region in general,” she said, according to the Russian state-controlled news provider Sputnik.
As the situation for civilians in Aleppo grows increasingly dire, the largest hospital in the east of the city was hit by barrel bombs on Saturday, the medical organization that supports it said.
“Two barrel bombs hit the M10 hospital and there were reports of a cluster bomb as well,” said Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society.
Sahloul said a small group of patients and doctors “were inside the hospital for basic triage, bandaging, and cleaning services for emergency cases” when the bombardment began.
SAMS radiologist and hospital administrator Mohammad Abu Rajab made an urgent call for help from inside M10.
“The hospital is being destroyed! SOS, everyone!” he said in an audio message distributed to journalists. (AFP)