Syrian regime continue strikes on besieged Douma

Syrian regime continue strikes on besieged Douma

Syrian regime continue strikes on besieged Douma

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.

According to the Syrian Civil Defence, a group of rescuers operating in opposition-held areas in Syria, the air raids killed at least 30 civilians, including women and children.

Regime forces were locked in violent clashes with Jaish Al Islam rebels in agricultural areas to the southwest and east of the town, the monitor said.

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.

But tens of thousands more have opted to stay under rebel control in the northern province of Idlib, an area that could become the next target of government bombardment.

A deal was reached last month to evacuate Douma but activists and state media reported that the Army of Islam group demanded amendments to the deal.

Earlier it was reported that the Syrian rebels and the Russian military agreed on a plan for the evacuation of the city Council.

But Jaish al-Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar in a statement late Friday denied that the group had targeted any Damascus neighbourhood.

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

A total of 2,963 militants and their families evacuated Douma in three batches over the past few days under a deal concluded between the Islam Army and the Syrian government forces under a Russian mediation.

Army of Islam official Ammar al-Hassan told The Associated Press that he has no information on whether the truce collapsed.

Syrian state media blamed Jaish al-Islam for refusing to hand over "hostages", saying the new assault was a bid to pressure the rebel group to hand them over.

Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria, said that "as a result of sharp opposition among the odious militants and those who were prepared to participate in the negotiations process, the former leaders of the group (known as) Abu Humam, Abu Omar and Abu Ali were physically removed".

Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to expand the offensive against Syrian Kurdish militants in northern Syria eastward to the town of Tel Rifat.

Another eight civilians were killed on Saturday as more bombing raids slammed into the town, the Britain-based Observatory said.

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