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Activists: Bombs knock out 2 hospitals in northern Syria

BEIRUT — Airstrikes and rockets in northern Syria knocked out two medical centers dedicated to women Friday and killed at least 12, including two people in one of the health facilities, according to opposition activists, a charity group and a hospital manager.

Warplanes and artillery shelling also continued to pound the besieged rebel-held neighborhoods of the northern city of Aleppo as government troops pushed their way from the enclave's northeastern district.

Shafak, a Turkey-based Syrian NGO that supports medical facilities in Syria, said their UN-sponsored gynecology and gender-based violence treatment and awareness center in Termanin village in the northern Idlib province was hit by four consecutive airstrikes Friday afternoon, killing two civilians who were in the building and injuring a gynecologist and a janitor in the facility.

The center, which receives about 35 patients a day and is the only such facility in the area, has been put out of service, Shafak said in a statement. The center's ambulance, emergency room and operation rooms were badly damaged, said Assad al-Halabi, an advocacy manager in Shafak. Al-Halabi said one of the killed was accompanying a patient. The second killed has not yet been identified.

A video and photos released by Shafak showed extensive damage to the collapsed building, as well as a destroyed incubator and ambulance. The Syrian Civil Defense team in Idlib said their team was targeted with airstrikes while they were conducting a search and rescue mission at the hospital— with what has become known as "double tap" strikes. The group said none of its volunteers were injured.

Another gynecology hospital in the besieged parts of Aleppo city was also hit Friday. Abdul-Hamid al-Eissa, al-Zahra hospital manager, said four generators were knocked out and the building was no longer useable. He said the hospital, in a quarter known to house several medical facilities, was hit with rockets. One civilian was badly injured and his leg had to be amputated, al-Eissa said.

The hospital posted several photographs showing the damage on its Facebook page, adding that all staffers and patients were safe and evacuated.

"It was directly hit. Missiles first hit the balcony," he told The Associated Press. As he spoke, a projectile could be heard falling nearby. The hospital was knocked out of service. A couple of hours later, another airstrike was reported at the hospital.

The government has recently stepped up its bombardment of eastern Aleppo, and by Sunday it had knocked out every hospital in the quarter, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Friday, airstrikes targeted a village in the western countryside of Aleppo, killing at least five people including children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrike on the village of Taqad caused widespread destruction and killed 11, including four children and three women. The opposition's Halab Today TV and Step News Agency said five people, including children, were killed in the airstrike and dozens wounded.

An amateur video posted online showed Civil Defense members and residents pulling out a dead child from under the rubble in the village. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.

Russia, a major backer of the Syrian government, announced on Nov. 15 an offensive against militants in the northern province of Idlib and central Homs province. Since the announcement, the Syrian government resumed its intense aerial bombing of the besieged districts of Aleppo city, and escalated its calls on residents of the area to leave in what many viewed as prelude to a major ground offensive.

The Observatory said Syrian government forces are trying to advance in two neighborhoods, including the northeastern Hanano district of which large parts have been captured by troops. At least five other people were killed in airstrikes on an adjacent district, according to the Civil Defense teams and Aleppo Today TV.

A day earlier, the violence left a least 32 people dead, according to the Observatory. The Civil Defense had a higher death toll of 54.

Syria's state news agency SANA, meanwhile, said Friday that two civilians were killed and others wounded by rocket rounds fired by militants on al-Midan neighborhood in the western part of Aleppo, controlled by the government.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once commercial center, has been the center of fighting in recent months, battles that left hundreds of people dead. The city has been contested since the summer of 2012.

Separately in northern Aleppo, Turkish jets and artillery continued to target areas controlled by Islamic State militants.

Near the contested town of al-Bab, one Turkish soldier was killed and five lightly wounded in clashes with the extremist group, according to a report by the Turkish Armed Forces, cited by Turkey's Anadolu news Agency. The death of the soldier comes a day after three Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack Ankara claims was by Syrian government forces, Turkey's state-run news agency said.

Turkey sent ground troops into northern Syria to support Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces in clearing a border area of Islamic State group militants and to curb Kurdish territorial expansion.

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