February 16, 2016   |   Claire Bernish
February 16, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Syria — Nearly 50 people were killed in airstrikes that hit several hospitals and schools in northern Syria on Monday, though multiple conflicting reports added to confusion over who was responsible. “This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,” said MSF Head of Mission Massimiliano Rebaudengo.
A press release from Médecins Sans Frontières stated at “least seven people were killed, and at least eight are missing, presumed dead, after an [MSF]-supported hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria was destroyed in an attack on Monday morning.
“The hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan was hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to staff from the hospital.”
MSF reported that around 15 residential buildings in the area were also destroyed or damaged in the attack.
Later, MSF President Mego Terzian told Reuters, “The author of the strike is clearly … either the government or Russia.”
When contacted by Anti-Media to confirm that statement, New York press office contact Sandra Murillo stated MSF, indeed, believes “the hospital was destroyed by the Syrian government-led coalition.” That coalition consists of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and — as further evidence of the depth of the quagmire — the same militias fighting alongside the U.S. in Iraq. Militias the CIA armed.
Syrian Ambassador to Moscow Riad Haddad told Rossiya 24 that the U.S. was responsible for the attack on the MSF facility, reported Today’s Zaman. Of course, the Syrian government would have reason to make such a claim, as the U.S. currently backs opposition forces with the well-known intent to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
“It was destroyed by the American Air Force. The Russian Air Force has nothing to do with it,” Haddad stated, according to Reuters. Turkey, Haddad added, is interfering in Syria in order to fight Islamic State militants.
A separate attack in the Syrian city of A’zaz claimed at least 14 civilian lives “when missiles hit a children’s hospital and a school sheltering refugees fleeing the Syrian army offensive, a medic and two residents said,” reported Reuters. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed Russia was responsible in that attack.
“These attacks that we strongly condemn are unconscionable and obvious war crime[s] under international law,” a statement from the Turkish foreign ministry stated, reported ZeroHedge. “If Russian Federation does not end those attacks immediately — which remove peace and stability — it is inevitable that Russia will face bigger and more serious results.”
Turkey has been fighting to prevent Russian-backed Kurdish YPG forces (who are also unofficially backed by Washington, at least in combating ISIL) from seizing control of A’zaz, which is situated along the border. Turkey’s most apparent mission in the region, though not necessarily an official one, is preventing various Kurdish groups from coordinating, amassing, and ultimately establishing an independent state. As ZeroHedge clarified,“Turkey claims this is about self defense. Erdoğan equates the YPG (which is supported overtly by the U.S.) with PKK, Ankara’s arch enemy that’s recognized by Washington as a ‘terrorist’ group.”
According to the Guardian, on Saturday, Davutoğlu told reporters via state news, TRT Haber, “We will retaliate against every step [by the YPG].” Ankara continued shelling Kurdish forces who had taken control of an airbase in northern Syria. On Monday, perhaps tellingly, Davutoğlu said, “We will not allow A’zaz to fall. If they approach again, they will see the harshest reaction.”
Complicating matters, Business Insider reported YPG forces in western areas of Syria “appear to be” coordinating with Russia to retake territory gained by Syrian rebel groups. Then, “Washington apparently asked Turkey to hold its fire against the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces on Monday” — a request met with “astonishment” from Turkish officials. Syria expert and resident fellow at the Mideast Institute conveyed the gravity of the quagmire via Twitter:
“It really cannot be said enough how catastrophic the policy disconnect between (1) CIA (2) CENTCOM & (3) Obama Admin has been on Syria. The CIA & CENTCOM have each empowered armed groups that directly oppose the other’s reasons for being on the ground.”
Despite insistence by Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz that Turkey had not sent limited troops over the border into Syria, the state-run Syrian Arab New Agency published a letter over the weekend from the Turkish foreign ministry addressed to the U.N. Security Council claiming Turkish forces were indeed among 100 gunmen who had entered Syria in support of anti-Assad rebels, as reported by the Washington Post.
On Saturday, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia claimed readiness to send in ground forces to Syria, with the Saudis amassing troops and fighter jets in Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase under the premise of fighting ISIL. According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in a statement to Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, “At every coalition meeting we have always emphasized the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh [ISIL] terrorist group.
“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the land […] Saudi Arabia visited the base for exploration. Saudi Arabia declared its determination against Daesh by saying that they were ready to send both jets and troops.”
Though ISIL remains a significant threat in Syria, it also functions as a convenient cover for many state actors sending or directing fighters in order to further individual geostrategic goals. Saudi Arabia wishes to prevent both Hezbollah and Iranian influence, and due to its steadfast alliance with the U.S., would also seek to thwart Russian aid to prop up the Assad government.
In fact, the battle for control over the city of Aleppo has given Putin a bit of an upper hand in Syria. As the population of the area surrounding the city empties at a startling pace, rebel forces who have held fast in Aleppo’s east have been weakened substantially under heavy bombardment from Russia and its allies, despite the recent agreement for a “cessation of hostilities” — which many considered worthless in all but name, almost immediately after its announcement.
“There is a spiral of insecurity here that is not being managed,” said political consultant Salman Shaikh of the mini-world war taking place in Aleppo, reported the Washington Post. “What we are seeing is a classic, really complicated balance-of-power struggle that could become a very dangerous situation.”
Fighters from both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will also back certain Turkish, U.S., and Saudi goals in Syria. As Çavuşoğlu stated, “We have been coordinating with Saudi Arabia in many fields, especially in defense, as we have very close relations with Qatar. Also, despite having some problems with the [UAE], now we are recovering our ties. These cooperations have significance for the stability and security of the region.”
Stability in the region, considering the extent of both direct and proxy battles raging there, would be a bit of an ironic oxymoron. Perhaps the only clear concept in the current imbroglio is the potential this tension will lead to massive war.
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