An Aleppo hospital attacked by Syrian government forces was hit by an illegal vacuum bomb, according to an American NGO that owns the facility.
Mohamed Khatoub, advocacy manager for the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), said: "Our health workers can tell the difference between damage inflicted by conventional bombs and vacuum after five years of the conflict."
He added that staff on the ground believed a thermobaric weapon, also known as a vacuum bomb, had been used based on the injuries inflicted on patients and the damage to the hospital.
Images on social media claiming to depict the aftermath of the attack on the M2 Hospital on Tuesday night show patients still in their beds struggling to move as first responders attempt to drag them to safety. It was the third time that the Syrian government has hit the facility.
No civilians or healthworkers were killed in the attack, Khatoub said, although two ambulances were destroyed and the primary health-care and physiotherapy centres were damaged. The hospital is one of many medical facilities in rebel-held areas supported by SAMS.
On Wednesday one SAMS worker suggested Russian involvement in the attack.
Vacuum bombs work by releasing a fine cloud of explosive mixture that is then ignited, creating an intense fireball that consumes all available oxygen and delivers a devastating shockwave.
UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, reaffirmed in 2015 that such weapons are illegal according to international law, after an attack last year. Syrian government jets were alleged to have used a vacuum bomb to hit a market in Douma, a suburb northeast of Damascus, killing almost 100 people.
At the time, De Mistura backed up reports that suggested the Syrian government may have used a vacuum bomb, saying that "attacks on civilian areas with aerial indiscriminate bombs, such as vacuum bombs, are prohibited under international law."
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