Monitor: Syrian Air Force Strikes Kill 82 in Damascus Outskirts

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Syrian children inspect the rubble of destroyed buildings following airstrikes by Syrian in the rebel-held area of Douma, north east of the capital Damascus, on February 6, 2015. AFP/Abd Doumany

Published Friday, February 6, 2015

Syrian air force strikes killed at least 82 people in an opposition-held district outside Damascus, following rocket attacks by rebels that had hit the government-controlled center of the Syrian capital, a monitoring group said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said the air force conducted 60 strikes on the Eastern Ghouta district on Thursday and during the night, killing 11 fighters. The casualties also included at least 12 children.

It was the deadliest aerial attack by the Syrian army since November 25, when 95 people were killed in airstrikes on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

Thursday's strikes came after a rebel group called Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) in Eastern Ghouta fired a barrage of at least 120 mortar rounds and rockets into Damascus, killing six people, among them a child.

Army of Islam was formed by a merger of rebel factions in 2013 and has received backing from Saudi Arabia.

Syrian state news agency (SANA) reported that Damascus countryside witnessed fierce clashes between the Syrian army and Army of Islam, mentioning death tolls in the “terrorists” lines without specifying any number. The Syrian government refers to all armed opposition as “terrorism.”

Residents said the capital was quiet on Friday and that the mortar and rocket fire appeared to be over. But army airstrikes were continuing in Eastern Ghouta, the Observatory said.

The key rebel bastion on the outskirts of Damascus has been under siege for nearly two years, leading to food and medical shortages. Since mid-2012, the Syrian army has carried out frequent air raids there and on other on rebel-held areas.

Syria's conflict began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change, but evolved into a brutal war after government forces violently repressed demonstrators. Islamists have since poured into the country from all over the world, seeking to establish an “Islamic caliphate.”

More than 200,000 people have been reportedly killed since March 2011 and half of Syria’s population of 22 million has been forced to flee their homes.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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