Middle East

Incendiary bombs dropped on hospital, Syrian rebel group says

A Syrian army helicopter dropped incendiary "barrel bombs" on the only hospital in besieged, opposition-held Daraya early on Friday, putting it out of action, rebels and a war monitor said.

Around 25 people who were in the hospital at the time were evacuated and no one was hurt, Issam al-Reis, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army Southern Front groups, said in an emailed statement, but all the hospital's medical equipment was destroyed.

The army has dropped up to 45 barrel bombs on Daraya, launched dozens of rockets at the area and shelled it heavily since midnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said on Friday. 

Barrel bombs are oil drums packed with explosive material and shrapnel that set fires and cause bad burns. Their use was condemned by the United Nations Security Council last year.

The Syrian military could not immediately be reached for comment. The government has previously denied dropping barrel bombs, but their use has been widely recorded by a UN commission of inquiry on Syria.

Daraya, only 12km from Damascus, has been besieged by the government since 2012, but aid agencies gained access to the town during a humanitarian cessation of hostilities earlier this year.

Neither Islamic State group nor Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Nusra Front and aligned with al Qaeda until last month, are based in Daraya, Reis said.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said in a report that Syria and Russia, which intervened in the war a year ago with airstrikes in support of the government, were using incendiary weapons in the civil war in violation of international law. 

"Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance, causing excruciatingly painful burns that are difficult to treat," its report said. 

"The weapons also start fires that are hard to extinguish, destroying civilian objects and infrastructure," it said.

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