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Four medics 'killed in strike on clinic' near Syria's Aleppo

US blames Russia for air strike that levelled a clinic near the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least four medics with the death toll expected to rise
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence extinguish burning trucks carrying aid on the side of the road in the town of Orum al-Kubra on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (AFP)

Four medics were killed and a nurse critically wounded when an air strike hit a clinic in a village near Syria's second city Aleppo late on Tuesday, the aid group that supports it said.

The four staff of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM) were in two ambulances that had been called to the clinic to take some patients for more specialised treatment, the group said.

The clinic in the village of Khan Tuman was completely levelled in the 11pm strike and more dead were feared to be buried under the rubble, the group added.

"The building has three floors, including a basement. Because of the intensity of the bombardment, the three storeys collapsed and are completely destroyed," the groups' hospitals and trauma director for the area, Ahmed Dbais, said in a statement.

"We don't yet know exactly how many dead there are."

Speaking to the BBC, US officials blamed Russia for the attacks, saying two Russian jets had carried out the strike.

Russia denied claims, saying the US had "no facts" to back up its assertion.

"There are no craters and the exterior of the vehicles do not have the kind of damage consistent with blasts caused by bombs dropped from the air," a statement from the defence ministry said.

Khan Tuman is near Orum al-Kubrah, the town where an attack on aid trucks and a warehouse killed around 20 civilians on Monday, triggering a war of words between major powers after Washington accused Moscow of responsibility.

According to the World Heath Organisation, Syria is the most dangerous country in the world for health professionals with 135 strikes on clinics and hospitals last year.

The head of UOSSM France, Dr Ziad Alissa, condemned the "unacceptable" attack on the group's clinic and staff.

"Deliberately targeting humanitarian workers and medical professionals is a clear violation of international humanitarian law," he said.

"We appeal to the international community to act swiftly to put a stop to these atrocities. Too many lives have been lost."

The UOSSM is a medical aid group originally founded by Syrian expatriates but now international.

Bombardment continues

Dozens of air strikes battered Aleppo and its outskirts overnight, AFP's correspondent in the battleground northern Syrian city said Wednesday.

More than 100 explosions were heard between midnight and the early hours of Tuesday as warplanes flew overheard.

The barrage of strikes quieted after rain broke over the city around dawn.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the raids or how many casualties they had caused. Both Syrian military aircraft and allied Russian warplanes are known to be operating in the area.

In the eastern rebel-held district of Sukkari, Abu Ahmad cleared rubble and glass from his doorstep after bombardment demolished the six-storey building next door, killing his neighbours. 

"There was no one in the building except for two brothers. Both of their families have been outside of the city for the past two weeks," Abu Ahmad said. 

"I was visiting and drinking tea with them an hour before the raid. One of them was advising me to move from the fourth floor of my building to a lower floor because the bombardment had started again."

"Just an hour after I left, a missile destroyed their whole building and they both died under the rubble," Abu Ahmad said. 

Bombing raids resumed over Aleppo on Sunday, a day before the Syrian military announced the end of a week-long freeze on fighting. 

The ceasefire was part of a US-Russia deal to halt fighting across Syria and bring in humanitarian aid to desperate civilians, especially in divided Aleppo.

Syrian state media reported Wednesday that the city's government-held west had also come under rebel bombardment.

According to state news agency SANA, two people were killed and seven wounded by "shells fired by terrorist groups on the Salahedin neighbourhood of Aleppo." 

Fierce clashes also rocked the southwestern edges of the city overnight, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based monitor said government forces seized a series of buildings there, and confirmed that dozens of raids hit the eastern half of the city. 

More than 300,000 people have been killed since Syria's war first broke out in March 2011.

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