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22 March 2018, 12:47 | Camille Rivera
Syrian market assault leaves 44 dead, marking one of deadliest Damascus attacks in years
Since the crisis flared up, Syria has defended its right to protect its own citizens and put vast efforts to spare the Syrians and the world the massacres of terrorist groups, urging the sponsors of terrorist gangs to immediately desist from supporting terrorists.
BEIRUT-In one of the deadliest attacks in the Syrian capital in the country's seven-year civil war, at least 44 people, majority women and children, were killed when insurgents fired mortar shells on a busy market in Damascus, state media said Wednesday.
Witnesses told state-run TV that the mortar shells fell during rush hour in the popular market on the eve of Mother's Day, celebrated in the Middle East with the start of spring.
Fighters from the Ahrar al Sham rebel group in control of the besieged town of Harasta had agreed to lay down arms in return for safe passage to opposition-held northwestern Syria and an offer to be pardoned under reconciliation terms with the authorities for those who want to stay, the sources said.
Syrian pro-government forces advance on the outskirts of Ayn Tarma in Eastern Ghouta as they continue to press their offensive to capture the militant-held enclave on the doorstep of Damascus on March 21, 2018. Other civilians and fighters would be evacuated to rebel-held Idlib in northwest Syria in coming days, the commander said. The Ahrar al-Sham group, headquartered in Harasta, is the smallest of the rebel groups that control eastern Ghouta.
Videos of the aftermath posted online showed scenes of chaos, with people screaming and bodies and mannequins strewn across the ground.
Defeat in eastern Ghouta would mark the worst setback for the anti-Assad rebellion since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing, ground assault and the promise of safe passage out.
"The oldest among them is 11", he said. Before the latest offensive, it was estimated that 400,000 people were trapped in the besieged region. "Everyone started running, and people were going into narrow streets to give first aid to others", the child said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated at least 20 people were killed in the air strike on the village in Idlib province. The TV network did not identify the woman or the child.
A Russian-brokered deal has been reached to evacuate a Syrian rebel group from a town in eastern Ghouta, opposition sources and officials said on Wednesday, the first such deal in the remaining rebel bastion near the capital.
The government blamed the attack on rebels in eastern Ghouta.
Government forces meanwhile continued to pound opposition-held areas with shelling and airstrikes.
More than 100 civilians were killed in the last two days of air strikes in eastern Ghouta with most of the raids on Douma city, the largest population center with more than 150,000 people still living there.
Beside Harasta, the rebels still hold two other pockets in the enclaveoutside Damascus - the major town of Douma and an area to the south that includes the towns of Jobar, Ein Terma and Arbin. President Bashar Assad paid a rare visit to troops on the front lines over the weekend.
They have said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave but have agreed to evacuation deals to get hundreds of sick and wounded civilians out under United Nations auspices.
It added that as many as 1,500 rebels and 6,000 civilians, largely of the rebels' families, are expected to leave Harasta on Thursday in two batches.
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