BEIRUT (Reuters) - Air strikes destroyed the only hospital in the rebel-held town of Atareb in the countryside west of Aleppo on Monday, wounding several members of the medical staff, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said warplanes pounded the town during the night and into Monday, knocking the hospital out of service permanently.

The strikes hit the hospital directly, as well as nearby areas, it said.

It is the only hospital in the town of Atareb and it serves an area that is home to nearly 60,000 people, the Observatory said.

Heavy air strikes have hit several areas of Aleppo's western countryside in recent days, the Observatory reported.

Rebels, supported by Turkey, the U.S. and Gulf monarchies, are fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, whose military, backed by Russia's air force, has used strikes from jets and helicopters extensively in the five-and-a-half-year conflict.

Western countries and human rights activists in rebel-held areas have accused the Syrian and Russian air forces of deliberately targeting hospitals, bread lines and other civilian infrastructure in territory controlled by the rebels.

Both Moscow and Damascus have denied doing so and say their air campaign is directed against military targets belonging to the rebels, who they describe as terrorists.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, left half the country's pre-war population homeless, dragged in global and regional powers and given space to jihadist groups to consolidate their organizations and plan attacks abroad.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Toby Chopra)