13 Killed in Hospital Attack in Opposition-held Syria Town

BEIRUT (AP) -- Missiles hit a hospital in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed fighters on Saturday, killing at least 13 people, including two medical staff, and putting the facility out of service, activists and an aid group said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the shelling, which came from areas where government troops and Kurdish-led fighters are deployed.

The governor of Turkey's Hatay's province, across the border from Afrin, also said the attack killed 13 civilians and injured 27, adding that it involved rocket and artillery shelling of the hospital. The governor's office blamed the attack on Syrian Kurdish groups.

A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, put the death toll at 18. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.

The Syrian American Medical Society, or SAMS, an aid group that assists health centers in opposition areas, said al-Shifaa Hospital in the town of Afrin was targeted by two missiles. The attack destroyed the polyclinic department, the emergency and the delivery rooms, the group said.

Two of the 13 people killed were hospital staff and two were ambulance drivers, said SAMS, which supports the hospital. Eleven of its staff were injured. The hospital has been put out of service and patients were evacuated, the group said.

SAMS called for an investigation into the attack on the hospital, one of the largest facilities in northern Syria that offered thousands of medical services each month, including surgeries and maternity wards. The coordinates for the hospital, which is financed by USAID as well as UN funds, were shared as part of the U.N.-led deconfliction mechanism, the group said.

Turkey and allied Syrian fighters took control of Afrin in 2018 in a military operation that expelled local Kurdish fighters and displaced thousands of Kurdish residents. Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters who were in control of Afrin terrorists. Since then, there has been a series of attacks on Turkish targets in the area.

The governor's office of Turkey's Hatay province blamed the attack on the Kurdish group.

The head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abadi, denied his forces were behind the attack. In a tweet, he said, the U.S-backed SDF condemned the attack that targeted innocent lives, calling it a violation of international law.