Deadly violence hits Damascus and nearby rebel pocket

Apr 08, 2018, 00:41
Deadly violence hits Damascus and nearby rebel pocket

Violence resumed days after hundreds of opposition fighters and their relatives left Douma toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

To date, an estimated 150,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta have evacuated to northern Syria.

Syrian government forces said they retaliated after a faction within Jaish al-Islam, the rebel group controlling Douma, shelled a government-held area, killing four people.

Syrian state media is reporting that a bomb has exploded near a mosque in the capital Damascus killing one person and wounding six others.

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

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 7 that at least 30 air raids have been mounted by Syrian and Russian warplanes on Douma since midnight.

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

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.

"The negotiations have ended with failure". The talks, overseen by Russian Federation, ended without resolution, according to a commander in Assad's regional military alliance who spoke to Reuters.

A reporter for Lebanon's Al-Manar TV embedded with Syrian troops near Douma said government forces advanced toward Douma from the towns of Misraba and Madiara that were recently captured by troops.

State TV showed thick clouds of smoke rising from Douma, where Jaish al-Islam is holding out after insurgents in other parts of eastern Ghouta accepted offers of safe passage to rebel-held areas in the north of the country.

The channel said troops carried out a ground offensive under the cover of airstrikes moving deep into the so-called Douma Farms after a 10-day truce collapsed Friday afternoon.

"Their only shared interests is the blood of civilians", he added.

That demand has been rejected. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart that the main Kurdish militia People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, is no longer present there. Otherwise, they would be at risk from pro-Assad "sectarian militias", a reference to Iran-backed Shi'ite groups such as Hezbollah.

By sunset Friday, artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and warplanes intensely pounded the city of Douma, which is home to tens of thousands of people.

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

The conquest of Douma would underline Assad's unassailable position in the conflict that mushroomed out of protests against his rule seven years ago.

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