Syrian regime's blitz of Eastern Ghouta

Dozens of civilians were killed Friday in Eastern Ghouta when an orderly evacuation deal in the city of Douma, the last rebel-held city collapsed overnight, and the Syrian military responded with a new offensive against the area.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Douma-based activist Haitham Bakkar say Syrian warplanes carried out at least six airstrikes on the town Friday afternoon.

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.

The bombing began as talks between regime and rebels were ongoing with fears now that Bashar al-Assad's forces could unleash a new military assault to take the Eastern Ghouta town.

In recent weeks, government forces have retaken most of Eastern Ghouta through a combination of ground assaults and Russia-brokered evacuation deals.

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.

"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.

Syrian state TV said several airstrikes hit Douma after members of the Army of Islam rebel group shelled government-held areas nearby inflicting casualties.

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Supported by airpower from allied Russians, Syrian forces have stepped up attacks on Douma in an attempt to cement their control over long-besieged Eastern Ghouta, the monitor said. The Observatory report that eight people were killed in the blast that occurred near the town's Grand Mosque.

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.

But Jaish Al Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar in a statement late Friday denied that the group had targeted any Damascus neighbourhoods. "Forces are already amassing there and there is massive pressure on Jaish al-Islam", said Nawar Oliver, an analyst at the Omran Institute.

Jaish al-Islam's political official called for talks to spare civilian bloodshed.

Tens of thousands are estimated to be remaining in Douma.

It remains unclear exactly why the talks fell apart this week. "Their only shared interests is the blood of civilians", he said.

It was not clear if Russian Federation, the regime's main backer, or the Syrian Air Force had conducted the latest air strikes.

  • Megan Austin