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Tuesday 31 May 2016

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Russia not behind Syria hospital bombing, Putin spokesman says

Published 16/02/2016

People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on Febrary 15, 2016, after the building was hit by air strikes
People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on Febrary 15, 2016, after the building was hit by air strikes
A Turkish man helps a Syrian woman carrying a wounded girl to a hospital in Kilis after a hospital in Syria was bombed (AP)

Russia has rebuffed claims that its warplanes struck a hospital in northern Syria in airstrikes on Monday that killed at least nine people.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the hospital report was another case in which those who make such accusations against Russia are unable to back up their claims.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said Russian warplanes targeted the hospital in Idlib province, destroying it and killing nine people. France said that such attacks "could constitute war crimes".

Mr Peskov referred the parties making the accusations to the "primary source" and said they should rely on official announcements from the Syrian government.

He said: "For us, in this situation, the primary source is the official announcement from the Syrian government."

When pressed, he told journalists the Syrian government had made a string of announcements on who could have been behind the bombing.

He also noted that Syria's ambassador to Russia said the hospital was destroyed by the Americans.

The airstrikes came just days after Russia and other world powers agreed to bring about a pause in fighting that would allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the revival of Syrian peace talks.

The projected truce agreed on Friday in Munich was to begin in a week but there has been no sign it would happen.

Meanwhile, Syrian government troops and a predominantly Kurdish coalition of fighters advanced and captured more areas in the north from rival groups on Tuesday while pro-government forces routed extremists from a main power station in the area.

Syria's state news agency SANA and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces took the villages of Ahras and Misqan in the northern province of Aleppo.

Separately, members of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Arab and Kurdish groups, captured the major town of Tel Rifaat, one of the largest militant strongholds in Aleppo. After Tel Rifaat, SDF fighters also took the nearby village of Kfar Naseh, south of the town.

Intense clashes broke out on Tuesday near the village of Kaljibrin as SDF fighters tried to reach it, according to the Observatory and Aleppo-based activist Bahaa al-Halaby.

If SDF captures Kaljibrin, it would squeeze rebels in their stronghold of Mareh and the adjacent village of Sheikh Issa, which is also under attack by the IS.

Also on Tuesday, government forces and allied gunmen captured a power station in eastern Aleppo from IS that the extremists had used as a jailhouse.

The Observatory said the station and nearby villages were captured under the cover of aerial attacks by Syrian and Russian warplanes and helicopter gunships.

Meanwhile, in the city of Aleppo, insurgents repelled an attack by SDF fighters on the neighbourhoods of Hullok and Bustan al-Basha, according to Mr al-Halaby and the Aleppo Media Centre.

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