Fresh air strikes hit Syrias rebel Douma: rescuers


On Apr. 2, as talks between Russian Federation and Jaish al-Islam (an armed opposition group operating in Eastern Ghouta) were underway, evacuations began from Duma, with some 5,000 civilians leaving the area for opposition-held areas in northern Syria.

Rebels in Eastern Ghouta have managed to keep Syrian military forces at bay during years of war, but a four-year government siege of the district has led to a humanitarian crisis with severe shortages of food and medicine.

Violence resumed in and around Douma on Friday afternoon after the Army of Islam placed new conditions on an evacuation deal that saw hundreds of fighters and civilians leave earlier in the week.

The White Helmets, a group of rescuers operating in opposition-held areas in Syria, said on Saturday that more than 50 air raids had struck the town, which sits just 15km east of the capital, Damascus, over the past 24 hours.

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.

The pro-rebel watchdog group said intense battles are raging between the Islam Army and the Syrian government forces, with heavy shelling from the Syrian forces and the Russians on Douma.

At least eight civilians were killed and 20 others injured when a auto bomb exploded near a mosque in Syria's northern Al Bab city, Anadolu Agency reported.

The air and ground offensive on Eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians and caused an global outcry.

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There are tens of thousands of people estimated to be living in Douma, according to Reuters. "We don't know where we're going, and rumours are flying in the town", said a resident reached by phone who gave his name as Mohammed.

However, negotiations failed this week and air strikes resumed on Friday.

Some have already returned to their devastated neighbourhoods, while others are staying in crowded shelters. "The positions of the Syrian government troops have also been attacked with the use of small arms", the Russian Defense Ministry's statement read.

Top Jaish Al Islam political figure Mohammad Alloush on Friday blamed power struggles between the regime's allies.

The retaking of Jap Ghouta would mark a critical milestone in President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to regain administration of territory seized by rebel factions all through Syria's seven-year civil wrestle.

Elsewhere in Syria, a bomb exploded in the Aleppo town of al-Bab, which is controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters, killing nine people and wounding 15, according to the activist media collective Aleppo Media Center.

According to Yevtushenko, now "Syrian governmental forces are liberating the city of Douma from uncompromising rebel groups".