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Russia and Syrian government deny launching attack on Aleppo hospital

The death toll from the most recent airstrikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo has risen to 30. Damascus and Moscow have both denied accusations from the opposition that they carried out the strike on the al-Qudos hospital.

"We have 30 bodies: 22 identified and eight others whose names are not known yet," Abdel Rahman, a member of the non-governmental White Helmet Civil Defense organization told the DPA news agency on Thursday.

The volunteer said the death toll was expected to rise as more bodies were being pulled from the rubble of the al-Qudos hospital in the al-Sukari neighborhood of Aleppo city.

The dead included three children and a pediatrician, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The head of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission in Syria called the attack on the hospital "unacceptable" and added that "sadly this is not the first time the lifesaving medical services have been hit."

The ICRC reported that stocks of contingency food and medical aid would likely run out soon and warned that an escalation in fighting would prevent groups from replenishing them.

Watch video 00:59

Fresh airstrikes on Aleppo

More than half of the 200 civilians killed over the past week were in Aleppo.

"So many humanitarian health workers and relief workers are being bombed, killed, maimed at the moment," Egeland, the UN envoy, told reporters on Thursday.

Accusations and counter accusations

The Syrian opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Russia of conducting the air strikes on the hospital.

However, the Syrian government denied that the regime's airplanes carried out the attack.

Russia, too, said its aircraft were not involved in the strike. "According to our information, on the evening of April 27, for the first time after a long break, there was a plane over Aleppo that belonged to one of the so-called anti-Islamic State coalition," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to press its ally in Damascus to resect the cessation of hostilies.

"While we are still trying to gather the facts surrounding the circumstances of this attack, it appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime's appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders," Kerry said on Thursday.

"Russia has an urgent responsibility to press the regime to fulfill its commitments under UNSCR 2254, including in particular to stop attacking civilians, medical facilities, and first responders, and to abide fully by the cessation of hostilities," Kerry added.

Distant political transition

On Wednesday, UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura said

a third round of peace talks

had made progress despite recent hurdles. Negotiations started again two weeks ago, the same day the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held show elections for the parliament.

At the time, de Mistura had said he hoped that the talks would allow opposition leaders and representatives of Assad's regime to chart a political transition in the country. However, renewed violence has stalled negotiations and opposition leaders accuse the Assad government of targeting civilians even as its representatives in Geneva go through with the peace talks.

Watch video 02:11

UN: Situation in Aleppo 'catastrophic'

UN condemns attacks

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the airstrikes, his spokesman calling for accountability for the attacks.

"Attacks that target civilians are inexcusable violations of international human rights and humanitarian law," Stephane Dujarric said.

"The secretary general calls on the warring sides in Syria to immediately renew their commitment to the cessation of hostilities."

Ban also urged Russia and the US to exert pressure on the fighting parties and ensure that credible investigations are conducted into attacks targeting civilians.

shs/jm/jbh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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