Fresh air strikes hit Syria's Douma: rescuers

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.

The attack killed at least 32 people and wounded dozens more, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.Residents said the strikes had targeted civilian areas and left body parts strewn through the streets."Medical and emergency points are crowded with the wounded".

The monitor told AFP it could not specify the reason for the symptoms, but the White Helmets rescue forces said Douma had been hit with toxic gas.

Douma is the last rebel-held area in Eastern Ghouta, after other towns in the sprawling countryside have seen the evacuation of 43,000 rebels and their families toward Idlib Province in northwestern Syria.

Regime forces have captured almost all of Ghouta with a combination of ferocious bombing raids, which started on February 18, and negotiated withdrawals.

A week long ceasefire had been in place while Jaish al-Islam held talks on the possible withdrawal from Douma.

"A gaggle of buses carrying loads of Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their households go away Douma in preparation of them being transported to Jarabulus", a rebel-held metropolis in northern Syria, state info firm SANA acknowledged, referring to the rebels.

Douma is the last rebel-controlled town in Syrias Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling suburb of Damascus that was once the oppositions bastion on the edge of the capital. The Observatory said at least eight civilians were killed in the attacks.

The offensive to reclaim Douma, the last pocket of resistance in the suburbs surrounding Damascus, also followed talks between Turkey, Russia and Iran, on Syria.

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The Army of Islam has never publicly confirmed the agreement, and is said to be divided on whether to leave Douma, with hard-liners wanting to stay and fight.

SANA said on Friday that 50,000 of the people of Eastern Ghouta returned to their homes.

The Jaysh al-Islam militants have shelled Damascus with mortar rounds two times over the past 24 hours and fired the positions of the Syrian troops with small arms, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It remains unclear exactly why the talks between Moscow and Jaish al-Islam have faltered.

"The talks were going well", he said, but power struggles between the regimes allies had caused them to break down. "There were 20 strikes in 15 minutes", Mohammed, a medic, told AFP from Douma on Friday.

"Their only shared interests is the blood of civilians", he wrote on Twitter.

"These air strikes are paving the way for a ground operation".

On Saturday, fresh artillery fire hit those fields, said the Observatory.

  • Adam Floyd