Hospital evacuated as IS advance on Syrian rebel-held territories

Hospital evacuated as IS advance on Syrian rebel-held territories
3 min read
27 May, 2016
A hundred thousand homeless Syrians are at risk of their lives as Islamic State Group militants advance in Syria's rebel-held northern Aleppo territories, forcing medics to flee the area.
Medical staff and displaced Syrians are fleeing the Islamic State group's advance [AFP]

A hospital in northern Syria is being evacuated after the Islamic State group made sweeping advances close to the Turkish border.

IS militants have advanced on rebel-held Azaz in Aleppo province, forcing medical staff from Doctors Without Borders [MSF] to flee the area.

MSF said on their Twitter account on Friday that they were moving medical personnel and patients from the town of al-Salamah in preparation for an attack.

"MSF has had to evacuate most patients and staff from our hospital as frontlines have come too close. We are terribly concerned about the fate of our hospital, our patients and for the estimated 100,000 people trapped between the Turkish border and active frontlines," said Pablo Marco, operations manager with MSF."

"For some months the frontlines have been around seven kilometres away from the hospital and now they're only three kilometres from Al Salamah town. There is nowhere for people to flee as the fighting gets closer." 

He said the refugees have no safe place to go, with Turkish border closed to Syrians and IS militants behind them.

MSF said that it will be leaving behind skeleton medical crew to help treat the ill and wounded.

This evacution comes just shortly after a World Health Organisation [WHO] report indicated that Syria was the most dangerous place in the world for health workers in 2015.

Syria, ravaged by a devastating five-year conflict, and in 2015 counted 135 attacks on health facilities and workers, resulting in 173 deaths - the vast majority caused by Russian and regime forces.

That is more than half of the 256 attacks registered across 19 conflict areas last year, which together left 434 people dead.

Azaz
The town of Azaz in northern Syria [TNA]


Recent propaganda reports from IS makes claimes that they have captured seven towns in the region around Azaz, driving out the "apostate" fighters of the Free Syrian Army.

This was after Syrian opposition forces controlling the city of Azaz responded to attacks from the IS group in the village of Tal Hussein, east of the city, and were able to reclaim the area.

The IS group's latest incursions have divided rebel-held territory in the northern Aleppo governate in two. This has left a narrow stretch leading from the city of Azaz to the Turkish border, with Kurdish groups controlling the area on the other side of the town of Marea.

Regime forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have also carried out assaults on rebel groups around Aleppo in recent months, threatening their recent gains.

This latest advance by the IS group comes just days after the Syrian Democratic Forces - including Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces - announced a major offensive on the IS stronghold of Raqqa.