Russia and Syria destroy hospitals, kill 50 civilians

ALMOST 50 civilians were killed in attacks on at least four hospitals and two schools in northern Syria, the UN said on Monday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she now supported a no-fly zone to protect civilians.

Residents and activists said several of the attacks in Idlib and Aleppo provinces were launched by the Russian air force, casting more doubt on a pause in fighting to start by Saturday.

Russian and Syrian jets have pounded the region as part of a major offensive to push towards the key city of Aleppo and cut access to Turkey. The campaign has driven refugees to the Turkish border, alarming Ankara and European leaders.

Ms Merkel said: "In the present situation it would be helpful if there were an area over which none of the warring parties would fly air attacks."

Ms Merkel's rethink follows warnings the five-year conflict is spiralling out of control, bringing rival militaries into dangerously close proximity and sending the death toll soaring.

Fourteen people were killed yesterday in Azaz, near Turkey, when missiles hit a children's hospital, a school and a refugee shelter.

In neighbouring Idlib, five patients, a caretaker and a hospital guard were killed in two missile strikes on a hospital supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Locals blamed Russia for both attacks and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a Russian missile hit Azaz.