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

Zein Al RIFAI  AFP

Zein Al RIFAI AFP

Airstrikes carried out by Syrian government forces on the town of Douma killed 27 civilians on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom -based monitoring group.

Syrian State media reported on Saturday that the soldiers pushed deeper into Douma from western and southern fronts during their ground offensive.

"Twelve air strikes hit multiple areas in Douma", said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in Britain.

The ministry has informed that about 7 people being killed and over 42 injured by Jaysh Al-Islam militants during the shelling of Damascus with 25 mortar shells and bombardment missiles.

Five civilians were killed and 30 others wounded Saturday by the rebels' mortar shells amid intensifying military showdown in Damascus' Douma district, Xinhua reported citing the state news agency SANA.

Assad is keen to recapture Ghouta to eliminate the opposition from the outskirts of Damascus and end years of rocket fire on the capital.

Syrian state media quickly denied that troops had deployed chemical weapons on Douma, the last opposition-held town in the battered Eastern Ghouta enclave. At least 36 were killed, and 40 according to some reports, as airstrikes and ground forces advanced on the city.

Activists said the Islam Army rebels are having difficulties when crossing to areas under the Turkish control in northern Syria on their way to Jarablus, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border, which is the designated destination of the Islam Army.

Assad's forces and Jaish al-Islam began negotiations ten days ago.

Mohammad Alloush, the Jaish al-Islam political official, said the group wanted to continue negotiations. Other rebel groups agreed to relocate to the north after a Russia-backed government offensive in February and March that killed hundreds of people and caused devastating destruction.

The regime has used a combination of fierce bombardment and two negotiated withdrawals to empty out 95 percent of the enclave but rebels are still entrenched in the largest town of Douma.

Top Jaish al-Islam political figure Mohammad Alloush yesterday blamed worldwide supporters of Syria's government for hamstringing the talks.

The withdrawal of militants and their family members from Douma has been suspended as "extremists have resumed military attacks against Syrian governmental forces over the past 24 hours", he said.

Moscow announced a deal with Jaish Al Islam last Sunday, ushering in three consecutive days of evacuations from Douma that saw almost 3,000 fighters and civilians taken in buses to Idlib, northern Syria.

Syrian state media is reporting that a bomb has exploded near a mosque in the capital Damascus killing one person and wounding six others.

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