Russian air strikes inflicted severe damage on two hospitals in northern Syria yesterday, killing as many as 60 people, in one of the deadliest attacks since a nationwide ceasefire supposedly came into force.
The National and Ibn Sina hospitals in the city of Idlib were hit, leaving more than 100 people injured.
Video footage showed bodies of children and babies being pulled from the debris of one smouldering building. One young boy was seen being rescued by White Helmet emergency workers after being trapped for three hours beneath the rubble.
Sharef Samadi, an opposition activist in the city, said that most of the victims had been women and children.
"They are targeting the innocents," he said. "People have become too scared to get treatment at hospitals, as they have become the targets."
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids had been carried out by Russian aircraft. "The air strikes are the most intensive on Idlib since the beginning of the truce," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the organisation's director. "Even though Idlib is not covered by the ceasefire, it had been relatively calm."
Idlib is largely controlled by rebel groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda. However, residents hold regular protests against their rule.
Jabhat al-Nusra is not party to the ceasefire that came into effect on February 27 between Russian-backed regime forces and US-backed non-jihadist rebels. But hospitals should enjoy protection under international law.
The Russian defence ministry yesterday denied responsibility for the air strikes, as it does with all attacks which hit civilian areas.
According to Observatory figures, Russian air strikes have killed more than 2,000 civilians since Moscow began military support of President Bashar al-Assad last September.
Today is the deadline for the start of aid supplies to more than 1?million people trapped in 52 besieged areas across Syria. Of these, 49 are being blockaded by Mr Assad's forces.
Russia and Iran - the regime's key allies - agreed that aid must be delivered to those in need. But there is no sign of Mr Assad allowing distribution of essential supplies in areas his forces are besieging.
The death toll in Syria's civil war has risen to more than 400,000 people while half the country's population have been forced from their homes.