Air strikes carried out against Syria's Ghouta as talks sputter

08 April, 2018, 01:01 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • A destroyed mosque in part of eastern Ghouta recaptured by the Syrian regime

Violence broke out in and around a rebel-held town near the capital Damascus on Friday killing at least two people after almost two weeks of calm signaling an apparent collapse of a truce and an evacuation deal for opposition fighters to leave the area, state media and opposition activists said.

Government forces had resumed a military blitz of Douma on Friday after an apparent breakdown in negotiations between government backer Moscow and Jaish al-Islam, the rebels who hold the town.

Although a number of rebel strongholds remain, none are as strategically important as Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located.More than 130,000 people have fled the once-besieged enclave in recent weeks, according to the United Nations, a lot of them to government-run reception centers in Damascus.

Syrian state TV said rebels fired mortar shells into Damascus killing two people and wounding others. The Observatory said at least eight civilians were killed in the attacks. A ground assault then sliced the area into three isolated pockets, each held by different rebel factions.

Syrian forces have liberated around 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta, which was once a launch pad for deadly attacks against civilians in the capital.

Since 18 February, the government's offensive has killed more than 1,600 civilians and kept residents cowering in basements for weeks.

SANA said they faltered when Jaish al-Islam refused to release detainees they were holding in Douma, adding that the military assault would only stop if hostages are released.

They were the first bombing raids on Douma since negotiations began around 10 days ago over a withdrawal of rebels and civilians from the town, the largest in Eastern Ghouta.


In all, 157,255 people have left Eastern Ghouta since the humanitarian pauses were declared, while 33,345 people have been evacuated from Douma.

A commander in a regional alliance that fights for the Assad government said Jaish al-Islam had been offered safe transport out of Douma to rebel-held areas near Aleppo, in the northeast.

Tens of thousands of civilians also fled through humanitarian corridors opened by Russian Federation and are either already returning to their devastated neighborhoods or staying in crowded shelters.

Syria and Russian Federation had threatened a resumption of their brutal assault if Jaish al-Islam did not agree to the deal.

Those still trapped in Douma had been nervous that any attempt to renege on an evacuation would only prompt Russian Federation and regime warplanes to resume deadly strikes.

It remains unclear exactly why the talks fell apart this week.

Douma-based media activist Haitham Bakkar also said that 25 people were killed in the airstrikes and shelling that hit the town.

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