Syrian doctor Muhammad Waseem Maaz works at Aleppo's pediatric hospital on Feb. 20. (OMAR ETAKI/Independent Doctors Association via AFP/Getty Images)

Tributes began coming in Friday after one of the last pediatricians in the Syrian city of Aleppo was killed in airstrikes in rebel-held areas.

Air raids in the city late Wednesday left dozens dead, including patients and staff at al-Quds hospital, which was supported by international aid groups. But it was the death of Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz that seemed to draw attention special attention to the quickly deteriorating situation in the city.

"Like so many others, Dr. Maaz was killed for saving lives. Today we remember Dr. Maaz’s humanity and his bravery. Please share his story so others may know what medics in Aleppo and across Syria are facing," the director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, Dr. Hatem, said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Maaz worked in the al-Quds hospital mostly overnight, often after long day shifts at Aleppo's Children's Hospital. He started working in the city in 2013, according to Doctors Without Borders.

"He was friendly, kind and he used to joke a lot with the whole staff. He was the loveliest doctor in our hospital," Hatem said of his late friend. According to Hatem, airstrikes targeting the area near the hospital had become more frequent recently. 

"When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them," the hospital director said.


Burnt vehicles are pictured in front of al-Quds hospital in Aleppo after it was hit by airstrikes on April 28. (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

The attack has shed a renewed spotlight on the risks doctors all over Syria face to save their patients' lives. Doctors Without Borders supports approximately 150 hospitals in the war-torn country — al-Quds in Aleppo was one of them. Nearly half of Syria's hospitals have been destroyed since the beginning of the conflict, according to the United Nations.

"These ongoing and systematic attacks are an explicit violation of humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law, which stress the protection of medical facilities and humanitarian workers against military operations," the International Doctors Association, a Syria-focused NGO that is based in Turkey, said in a statement.

"We ask the international community to hold the perpetrators to account and put an end to the attacks immediately," the organization said.

A coalition of dozens of international and Syrian NGOs also urged President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to "immediately use their personal diplomatic engagement" to rescue Syria's cease-fire.

"Violence across Syria has escalated alarmingly, reportedly claiming a life on average every 25 minutes in the past 48 hours," the coalition said in a statement. "We cannot stand by in the face of this catastrophe."

Only 25 doctors currently work in Aleppo, according to the BBC. Maaz "loved his country, he loved his city. He had to stay close to those babies. Who would treat those babies if everybody left?" said Dr. Moaz, another colleague of Maaz's who had worked with him for five years and became best friends with him, in an interview with the British TV channel.

The head of Aleppo's Children's Hospital added that his late friend was supposed to leave Syria for some time in the near future: "He was supposed to visit his family [in Turkey] after I returned to Aleppo."

"He hadn’t seen them in four months," Hatem said.

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