The last senior pediatrician still working in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo has been killed in an airstrike on a hospital.
Dr. Muhammad Waseem Moaz, 36, was killed when the strike hit the Al Quds hospital at around 10 p.m. on Wednesday. At least 50 people died in the attack on the building in the Al-Sukkari neighborhood, Doctors Without Borders – known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – confirmed.
In an emotional Facebook tribute, friend and former colleague Dr. Hatem described Moaz, who had worked at Al Quds since 2013, as "the loveliest doctor in our hospital."
"He was friendly, kind and he used to joke a lot with the whole staff," the tribute read.
Hatem, director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, said Moaz was caught up in the airstrike during an emergency shift, which he often worked, in order to help more civilians. He was one of only six pediatricians still working in Aleppo.
"He was important to the entire city of liberated Aleppo," a spokesperson for the Independent Doctors Association told BuzzFeed News. "He was the only one with special qualifications, so he [was] not only a doctor but a trainer of doctors."
"He hasn’t seen his family for four months, but he used to always say, ‘I will stay in Aleppo.’ He was a brave man who refused to leave Aleppo under any circumstance," a statement from the NGO added.
Aitor Zabalgogeazkoa, an MSF representative who headed up the NGO's team in Aleppo in 2014, said Moaz was committed to helping the children of the city under the most appalling circumstances.
"He kept it going, was always there, and always worried about the needs of the people," Zabalgogeazkoa told BuzzFeed News. "He worked in conditions you cannot even begin to imagine."
An MSF spokesperson said that although they could not confirm Moaz was the last senior pediatrician in the city, they knew he was among the last working in the area.
"The loss of his life is a terrible tragedy and will have a devastating impact on this already critical situation," they told BuzzFeed News.
Rami Abdurahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told the BBC that Moaz was the last senior pediatrician in the rebel-held part of the city. The London-based organization says more than 100 people have died in the past week in the city.
The bombed hospital also included obstetric care. It was also the only hospital operating in the rebel-held areas that had a 24-hour cardiac intensive care unit. Moaz was among the eight doctors and 28 nurses who worked in the facility.
Muskilda Zancada, MSF's head of mission in Syria, warned that "the sky is falling in Aleppo."
“The attack on Al Quds hospital has destroyed one of the last remaining places in Aleppo in which you could still find humanity," she said in a statement released to BuzzFeed News. "Aleppo is already a shell of what it once was, this most recent assault appears determined to eliminate even that."
It remains unclear who launched the strike, but local sources have blamed either Syrian or Russian warplanes, a claim denied by the Syrian military to the BBC.
Following the attack, a coalition of doctors still working in Aleppo published a letter remembering their colleague as "the kindest and bravest of souls, whose devotion to treating the youngest victims of this war was unparalleled."
Moaz's was described as the "one of the best pediatricians left inside Syria" and his death as "another deadly reminder that those attacking Aleppo have no regard for the sanctity of life or humanity."
"As doctors working on the frontlines of the war in Aleppo, we viewed the cessation of hostilities that was brokered in February with scepticism," the letter also warned. "Over the last week, our worst fears were driven home in the most horrific circumstances. The city is bleeding."
It follows reports of a fresh strike on rebel-held areas of the city, apparently targeting a medical clinic in the Al-Marja neighborhood, according to the White Helmets, an emergency rescue charity operating in the city.
Meanwhile, both the U.S. and Russian officials agreed to a 48-hour "regime of silence" over the country starting at midnight Friday, Russian news channel RIA reported a diplomatic source as claiming.
Following the latest attacks, and partial ceasefire, 80 Syrian and international organisations released an urgent statement calling for Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin to use their personal diplomatic involvement to "save what remains of the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement."
"Violence across Syria has escalated alarmingly, reportedly claiming a life on average every 25 minutes in the past 48 hours. We cannot stand by in the face of this catastrophe," it said.
Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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