Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Civilians trapped as Syrian airstrikes pound rebels' final Damascus stronghold

The children of Jaish Al Islam fighters look out of the window of a bus after their evacuation from the rebel stronghold of Douma in Eastern Ghouta  AFP Airstrikes return to Syria's Ghouta killing 40 civilians as talks sputter
Andrew Cummings | 08 April, 2018, 01:03

At least 11 people were left struggling to breathe on Saturday after air strikes on Syria's rebel town of Douma, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said, as rescuers alleged that toxic gases were used.

Syrian state media say crucial rebel group in Damascus' jap Ghouta, the Navy of Islam, has begun to evacuate from the world's closing holdout metropolis.

Syrian state TV said rebels fired mortar shells into Damascus killing two people and wounding others.

The Army of Islam has never publicly confirmed the agreement, and is said to be divided on whether to leave Douma, with hard-liners wanting to stay and fight.

Another eight civilians were killed on Saturday as more bombing raids slammed into the town, the Britain-based Observatory said. The rebel group denied targeting the residential area.

The Syrian government unleashed a ferocious assault on the then-rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta on February 18, aiming to crush Islamist and jihadist groups on the doorstep of the capital.

The violence came after almost two weeks of calm in the last rebel-held town in the area known as eastern Ghouta after the Russians have agreed with the Army of Islam to evacuate the area toward rebel-held regions north of the country.

Douma is the last town held by rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

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The WIS First Alert Weather team has issued Saturday as a First Alert Day for the potential of strong to severe storms. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

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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.

Tens of thousands are estimated to be remaining in Douma.

Earlier it was reported that the Syrian rebels and the Russian military agreed on a plan for the evacuation of the city Council. Nearly half of them are staying with relatives or friends, while the others are living in makeshift shelters.

There have been reports that the Army of Islam wants to negotiate a new deal, complaining of mistreatment by Turkish troops in northern Syria.

But as talks dragged on, Syria and its Russian ally threatened Jaish al-Islam with a renewed military assault if they did not agree to withdraw.

Those still trapped in Douma had been nervous recently that any attempt to renege on an evacuation would only prompt Russian Federation and the Syrian aviation to resume deadly strikes.

It remains unclear exactly why the talks between Moscow and Jaish al-Islam have faltered.

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. Militants of the Jaysh al-Islam group attacked the positions of governmental forces, resumed mortar and missiles attacks at Damascus.

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