BEIRUT – The Latest on the civil war in Syria (all times local):
An international relief NGO says bombardment is the leading cause of forced displacement in Syria.
In a study published Wednesday, France-based Handicap International called the widespread use of shelling, rocket fire, and bombardment the "overriding factor" behind the tidal wave of displacement that has characterized the Syrian war.
The report cited interviews with refugees and patterns of bombardment and fatalities.
The U.N. says the 5 ½-year war has driven some 11 million Syrians from their homes.
Handicap International says many are fleeing the fear of injury and death, destruction to their homes and businesses, and infrastructure collapse.
It attributes over 60 percent of the civilian fatalities in Syria to explosive weapons.
Pope Francis has decried the assault on the Syrian city of Aleppo, saying those responsible for the bombing must answer to God.
Francis said at his public audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square that he's "united in suffering through prayer and spiritual closeness" to Aleppo's people. He expressed "deep pain and strong worry for what's happening," saying "children and elderly ... everyone is dying."
He called for utmost efforts to protect civilians in Syria's civil war, raging since 2011. Francis said: "I appeal to the consciences of those responsible for the bombing that they must give a reckoning to God" for their actions.
The Syrian government and its Russian allies have unleashed a major assault on the ancient city.
Medical officials say airstrikes have severely damaged two hospitals in eastern rebel-held Aleppo, leading to the death of two seriously ill patients.
The airstrikes early Wednesday hit the M2 and M10 hospitals, knocking out generators and cutting off water supplies, putting them temporarily out of service.
Mohammed Abu Rajab, head of M10 hospital, the largest of eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo, says two patients died because they could not be kept alive. He says the intensive care unit was severely damaged.
Adham Sahloul, of the Syrian American Medical Society, based in Gaziantep, Turkey, confirmed the strikes and described them as deliberate. He says government forces know the location of both facilities.
The closures leave eastern Aleppo with six functioning hospitals, only three of which are capable of dealing with emergencies