gpolit.com
gpolit.com April 24, 2018


Syrian activists say airstrikes on Douma kill 25

08 April 2018, 12:58 | Rufus Hill

Syrian activists say airstrikes on Douma kill 25

A man stands on rubble of damaged buildings in the besieged town of Douma

Violence broke out in and around a rebel-held town near the capital Damascus on Friday killing at least two people after almost two weeks of calm signaling an apparent collapse of a truce and an evacuation deal for opposition fighters to leave the area, state media and opposition activists said.

The Britain-based monitor said it could not confirm whether the strikes were carried out by Syrian government warplanes or those of its ally, Russia.

The monitor told AFP it could not specify the reason for the symptoms, but the White Helmets rescue forces said Douma had been hit with toxic gas.

Last month two other factions - Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham - agreed the evacuation of some 50,000 rebels and civilians living in Eastern Ghouta towns under their control to the mainly rebel-held northern province of Idlib.

Backed by Russia, Syrian troops have recaptured 95 percent of Ghouta since February 18 through a combination of a deadly air and ground assault and evacuation deals.

Top Jaish al-Islam political figure Mohammad Alloush yesterday blamed global supporters of Syria's government for hamstringing the talks.

Meanwhile, state news agency SANA said the Republican Guard of the Syrian army started entering the farmlands of Douma on Friday, accusing the rebels of undermining the agreement by not evacuating the district, firing mortar shells on the capital and refusing to release kidnapped people. The Observatory said at least eight civilians were killed in the attacks.

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

There are tens of thousands of people estimated to be living in Douma, according to Reuters. "Forces are already amassing there and there is massive pressure on Jaish al-Islam", said Nawar Oliver, an analyst at the Omran Institute.

However, Jaysh al-Islam political official Mohammad Alloush told al-Hadath TV that the group did not want to "close the door that can lead to sparing the blood of civilians and reaching a peaceful situation".

It remains unclear exactly why the talks fell apart this week.

The Observatory said the Russian response to the Army of Islam with a list of demands including handing over heavy weapons within three days that should be followed by handing over light weapons and in return government forces will withdraw from the outskirts of Douma within a week.

Others have blamed internal rebel divisions over the withdrawal process.

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

"The talks were going well".

Syrian troops also carried out a ground operation Friday in the orchards surrounding Douma.

On Saturday, fresh artillery fire hit those fields, said the Observatory.



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