68 killed in Syrian air attacks as more people flee Ghouta

68 killed in Syrian air attacks as more people flee Ghouta
Syrian civilians, evacuated from rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta, queue at a school in the regime-controlled Hosh Nasri, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus on Friday, as they board a bus to be relocated to other areas.

The staggering death toll came a day after Syria passed the seven-year mark in its relentless civil war.


Published: Fri 16 Mar 2018, 9:12 PM

Last updated: Fri 16 Mar 2018, 11:14 PM

Syrian government and Russian air strikes killed at least 46 people in a besieged town outside of Damascus on Friday, while Turkish shelling and attacks on a Kurdish-held town in northern Syria left at least 22 dead there, monitors and officials said.
The staggering death toll - at least 68 civilians killed - came a day after Syria passed the seven-year mark in its relentless civil war.
In Damascus' rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, Syrian and Russian jets struck the town of Kafr Batna with cluster bombs, napalm-like incendiary weapons, and conventional explosives, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The assault was part of an indiscriminate campaign by President Bashar Assad's forces to retake the town and the rest of the enclave from the rebels.
A medical charity supporting hospitals in the Ghouta region, the Syrian American Medical Society, said doctors in Kafr Batna were treating patients for severe burn wounds. The charity said it recorded 40 casualties on Friday. The Syrian Civil Defence search-and-rescue group said it identified 42 bodies so far.
Oways Al Shami, a spokesman for Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said he expected the toll to rise further. "Most of the (bodies) were charred," he said.
Exhausted and shell-shocked civilians streamed out of eastern Ghouta for the second consecutive day to buses arranged by the government to take them to a centre for identification and relief.
A man interviewed on state-affiliated Al Ikhbariya TV said he had gone two days without food. Others said rebels hoarded food and humiliated civilians, even shooting people trying to leave.
The UN has warned of a malnutrition crisis in eastern Ghouta, which human rights groups have blamed on the government's strangling blockade.
Russia's Defence Ministry said close to 5,000 civilians have been evacuated on Friday, after more than 10,000 left the enclave the before.
The assault on eastern Ghouta has devastated towns across the region and damaged and destroyed over a dozen hospitals. At least 1,300 civilians have been killed under shelling and air strikes.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Russian military and the Syrian government would extend a "ceasefire" in Damascus' rebel-held suburbs as long as it takes to allow all the civilians to leave the area.
In northern Syria, where Kurdish officials Turkish shelling and air strikes killed at least 22 civilians on Friday in the town of Afrin, the Turkish military urged civilians to leave and the Syrian Kurdish militiamen to surrender to besieging Turkish forces.
The media office for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led and US-backed force that operates in the Kurdish autonomous region in the north, said also that at least 30 were wounded in Friday's attacks.
Victims lay dead the streets in pools of blood, according to a video from the Observatory, which monitors Syria's seven-year civil war and which put the death toll at 18.

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