BEIRUT – A year of Russian airstrikes on areas outside government control in Syria have killed more than 9,000 people, displaced tens of thousands and caused wide destruction, an opposition monitoring group said Friday.
On Sept. 30 last year, Russia began an air campaign backing the ground forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, turning the balance of power in his favor in many areas — including the northern province of Aleppo and the suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Opposition activists have blamed Russia as being responsible for most of the recent airstrikes against rebel-held neighborhoods of east Aleppo city that killed more than 320 civilians in the past two weeks and demolished many buildings.
A Syrian opposition monitoring group that tracks Syria's civil war said a year of Russian airstrikes have killed 9,364 people in the war-torn country.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead include 3,804 civilians, including 906 children. The dead also include 2,746 members of the Islamic State group and 2,814 from other rebel and militant groups, including Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.
Russia on Friday is marking one year since it launched its air campaign in Syria in support of Assad. In light of that, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to Russians abroad about possible "provocations," urging them to exercise caution.
Also Friday, Syria's military and the Observatory said government forces captured a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo a day after regaining control of a Palestinian refugee camp in the city.
The Syrian military said government forces are strengthening their positions in the Handarat refugee camp and took control on Friday of the Kindi hospital, an unused structure that was damaged in years of war.
The Observatory said the hospital is on the northern edge of the city just 1.3 miles from a major intersection north of Aleppo known as the Gondol roundabout.
State TV also reported intense fighting in the central Suleiman al-Halaby area where it said troops captured several buildings. The area is home to a main water stations that supplies Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once commercial center, with drinking water.
The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group said eight soldiers were killed in clashes with rebels near the water station.
Syrian government forces have been on the offensive in Aleppo for days under the cover of intense airstrikes. State news agency SANA said rebels shelled the government-held part of Aleppo killing four and wounding 10.
The U.N. health agency decried an "unfathomable" situation for medical care in rebel-held parts of Aleppo, pleading for a halt to the violence that has prevented aid and support from entering.
Dr. Rick Brennan, emergency risk director for the World Health Organization, said the security situation is too dangerous for outside medical personnel to enter rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
Speaking Friday to reporters in Geneva, Brennan appealed for permission to evacuate the sick and injured. He said 846 people have been wounded, including 261 children, in the last couple of weeks.
He said fewer than 30 doctors doing work that's "beyond heroic" are now in eastern Aleppo, where at least 250,000 people live under siege.