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Summary

  1. Two hospitals have reportedly been hit by air strikes in north-western Syria
  2. At least 10 people are feared dead in one strike in Azaz, on the Turkish border
  3. Medecins Sans Frontieres says eight staff members are missing after another attack in Maarat al-Numan
  4. Azaz is the focus of mounting tension between Turkey and the Kurdish YPG militia
  5. The incidents come days after world powers agreed to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria

Live Reporting

By Victoria King, David Gritten, Lucy Fleming and Nalina Eggert

All times stated are UK

Latest air strikes: What we know

We're going to end our live coverage of events in Syria now. Our news story on the latest air strikes will continue to be updated.

To summarise:

- Two hospitals have been hit by air strikes in northern Syria, doctors and witnesses say

- In Azaz, on the Turkish border, at least 10 people reportedly died, including several in one hospital building

- Medecins Sans Frontieres said seven people died and eight are missing after another attack on a hospital in Maarat al-Numan

- MSF blamed pro-Syrian government forces for the raid in Maarat al-Numan; Turkey blamed Russia for the Azaz strike. Moscow has not commented

- Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers are discussing the conflict in Syria at a meeting in Brussels

- The UK foreign secretary has said any hopes of implementing a "cessation of hostilities" agreed last week depend on Russia ending its air strikes in Syria - something Russia says it will not do.

Cessation of hostilities 'increasingly unlikely'

As part of the cessation plan reached last week, there was agreement about the need to reopen a key supply line from the Turkish border to the besieged city of Aleppo. The BBC's Mark Lowen, in Istanbul, points out that at the moment that supply line is effectively closed by regime and Russian air strikes.

The prospect of that opening up - or indeed of any sort of ceasefire at all taking hold - is looking incredibly distant, he says, given the complicated picture on the ground and the competing priorities of Russia and Syria, Turkey, the Kurds and the West.

Syria crisis: Where key countries stand

The conflict in Syria, which began during the Arab Spring of 2011, has mushroomed and drawn in major global powers, including Russia, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

If you find it hard to remember who supports or opposes President Bashar al-Assad and the myriad rebel groups ranged against him, read this guide

a Russian S-400 air defense missile systems being unloaded from an An-124 Ruslan cargo plane at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, about 50km (30 miles) south of the border with Turkey - November 2015
AP

'Everybody has to abide by the agreement' - Dutch foreign minister

Also speaking ahead of that meeting in Brussels, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said more fighting "is obviously not what we expect" just days after an agreement to halt some of the violence in Syria.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said: "We have the plan for a cessation of hostilities and I think everybody has to abide by that.''

'Russia can end this' - UK foreign secretary

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
BBC

European Union officials are discussing the situation in Syria at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. They are debating ways to take forward the agreement on a limited "cessation of hostilities" that was reached last week,

On arrival at the meeting, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, above, said the next move had to be Russia's:

The Russians can end this if they want to, they can make this cessation of hostilities work by scaling back their bombing and redirecting it towards the real terrorists rather that bombing the moderate opposition. But if the Russians think the moderate opposition are going to lay down their weapons while they carry on bombing moderate opposition positions they are wrong, it's not going to happen"

Turkey 'angry' at US remarks over battle with Kurds

Turkish army cannon near the Syria border (15 Feb)
AFP

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic has said he is "shocked" at comments made by the US State Department concerning the country's fight with Kurdish rebels.

He was referring to remarks over the weekend by state department spokesman John Kirby, who urged Turkey and the Syrian Kurds to focus on tackling the "common threat" of so-called Islamic State.

Mr Kirby said the US was urging Kurdish YPG fighters to halt any advance in the Azaz area, and calling on Turkey to stop its shelling in the region.  

In response, the Reuters news agency quoted Mr Bilgic as saying on Monday:

We are shocked by the statements calling on us to stop shelling... Turkey does not need any permission to fight terrorism. Turkey's fight against terrorism will continue with resolve"

Turkey views the YPG militia in Syria as allied to the outlawed PKK, which has carried out a decades-long campaign for Kurdish autonomy within Turkey.  

'The levels of violence are obscene' - MSF spokesman

Sam Taylor, an MSF spokesman in Gaziantep, just north of Aleppo, has told the BBC he is "furious" at the latest attacks on medical facilities.

The MSF hospital in Maarat al-Numan was targeted today as well as one in Azaz.

I've been talking to Syrian people every day and it's appalling what's happening, the levels of violence inside are obscene. This hospital's only one hospital that was targeted today and we're receiving reports about other hospitals, that are not supported by MSF, being targeted."

Strikes follow 'cessation of hostilities' agreement

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
AFP

The latest incidents come just days after world powers agreed to seek a nationwide "cessation of hostilities" in Syria to begin in a week's time. Following talks in Germany, the 17-member International Syria Support Group also agreed to accelerate and expand aid deliveries. 

Both Russia and the US admitted the agreement was only progress on paper, but a task force chaired by the two countries agreed to implement the truce through consultations with Syria's rival groups.

However, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, above, said just a short time after the agreement was announced that he intended to retake "the whole country" from rebel forces, and would continue fighting.

Turkey targets Kurdish militia for third day - reports

BBC Monitoring

Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reports that Turkey's foreign ministry said on Monday that the country's security forces had hit Kurdish militia in Syria for the third day in a row.

"Today our border security outpost in the Hatay area at the Syrian border was attacked. Retaliation shots were fired in return," spokesman Tanju Bilgic was quoted as telling reporters.

Turkey has vowed not to allow the town of Azaz to fall to the militia.

Details on the hospital in Maarat al-Numan

MSF said the hospital struck in Maarat al-Numan had 30 beds, 54 staff, two operating theatres, an outpatients department and an emergency room.

It also tweeted:

View more on twitter

Images show destruction in Maarat al-Numan

People gather outside damaged hospital in Maarat al-Numan
AFP
Bulldozer outside damaged hospital in Maarat al-Numan
AFP
People gather outside damaged hospital in Maarat al-Numan
AFP

'Seven killed' in Maarat al-Numan attack - MSF

The president of MSF France has said seven people were killed in the aerial attack on the hospital it supported in Maarat al-Numan, and that he believes Russian or Syrian government forces were responsible. 

"There were at least seven deaths among the personnel and the patients, and at least eight MSF personnel have disappeared, and we don't know if they are alive," Mego Terzian told the Reuters news agency. 

"The author of the strike is clearly... either the government or Russia," he added.

Mapping the conflict in northern Syria

Map showing Kurdish control and population in Syria
BBC

Analysis: The strategic supply corridor

Selin Gerit

BBC, Istanbul

Azaz and Tal Rifaat are on a corridor stretching from the Turkish border to the city of Aleppo. 

This is the supply route, the lifeline for the anti-Assad rebels in the area, as it serves as a land bridge to Turkey. 

The route faces threats from various sides. 

To the east, the so-called Islamic State group, to the west the Syrian Kurds and to the south pro-Assad forces.

Tal Rifaat is 20km (12 miles) from the Turkish border. Azaz just 7km. Halfway between the two is the Menagh airbase, now captured by Syrian Kurds.

Turkey says the Kurds have to retreat. Otherwise, its shelling of their positions will continue. 

A Kurdish capture of Azaz and Tal Rifat - and the fall of the supply corridor - could change things dramatically. Turkey could indeed become directly involved.

'Missiles fired from Russian ships' - Turkey state news agency

The Turkish state news agency Anadolu is reporting that eight ballistic missiles were launched from Russian ships off Syria's Mediterranean coast on Monday. 

The agency also cites "local sources" as saying that Russian aircraft dropped cluster bombs in the attacks on the town of Azaz, hitting a school, a hospital and residential areas.

Earlier, Turkey's prime minister said a Russian ballistic missile had hit Azaz.

Syria’s health facilities 'blatantly' targeted

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 2015 “saw the most blatant attacks on health facilities in Syria”. Between June and August, there were approximately 70 aerial attacks alone
  • Between the start of the uprising in March 2011 and November 2015, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented 336 attacks on at least 240 medical facilities and the deaths of 697 medical personnel
  • 90% of the attacks were carried out by the Syrian government and its allies, according to PHR
  • An estimated 58% of public hospitals and 49% of primary health centres are either only partially functional or have closed, limiting healthcare workers’ ability to cope with the more than 25,000 trauma cases per month nationwide, according to the UN
  • More than 40% of the population in Syria lack access to basic health services, and the shortages of specialised medical staff, ambulances, equipment and medical supplies have led to an increased number of preventable deaths

Maarat al-Numan attack 'deliberate' - MSF

Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a statement that the hospital in the town of Maarat al-Numan, was hit by missiles four times in at least two attacks, minutes apart.

"This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms," said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF's head of mission in Syria.

"The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict."

People rescued from ruined buildings in Azaz

Child being rescued from damaged clinic in Azaz
AFP

Images are beginning to emerge from the areas reporting hit in Monday's strikes. This one, from Azaz, shows a child being rescued from the damaged hospital.

Russia 'guilty of crimes against humanity' - Turkey PM

Turkey's prime minister accused Russia of acting like a "terrorist organisation" in Syria. According to the AFP news agency, he spoke through an official translator during a visit to Kiev:

If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organisation and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response. Unfortunately, barbaric attacks on civilians are continuing in Syria and these attacks are being waged by both Russia and terrorist groups. Russia and other terrorist organisations - first and foremost, Islamic State in Syria - are responsible for numerous crimes against humanity."

Ahmet Davutoglu

Who is fighting whom?

The situation on the ground in the Azaz area is complicated to say the least - our graphic attempts to set out where the various parties stand.

Graphic showing the relationships between the Kurds, Turkey and Islamic State
B

Azaz - a focus of growing tension

Russia has been carrying out air strikes since September against opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although it says it has only targeted "terrorists". 

In recent weeks, Azaz and the nearby Bab al-Salam border crossing have seen an influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing a major offensive by Syrian government forces on rebel-held areas to the south, outside the city of Aleppo.

A Kurdish militia, the Popular Protection Forces (YPG) has also been making advances against the rebels west of Azaz. Turkey, which considers the YPG a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has promised the "harshest reaction" if Kurdish forces try to take the town.

Turkish PM blames Russia for Azaz strike

A damaged clinic in Azaz
AFP

At least 10 people reportedly died in the strike in Azaz, a town in Aleppo province about 5km (3 miles) from the Turkish border. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says a Russian ballistic missile hit buildings in the town, with children among the dead. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, and a local activist also said a missile struck the town.

Eight hospital staff missing - MSF

Hospital in Maarat al-Numan after reported air strike
Medecins Sans Frontieres

Medecins Sans Frontieres released this image of the aftermath of one of the air strikes on the hospital in Maarat al-Numan, in Idlib province. The organisation says the building was hit by four rockets and that at least eight of its staff are missing.

Hospitals hit

Two hospitals have been hit in new air strikes in north-western Syria, according to medics and witnesses. There are reports of deaths and injuries in the strikes, which occurred in the towns of Azaz and Maarat al-Numan.