Dozens Killed As Air Strikes Pound Syria’s Rebel Douma

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Damascus: Renewed air strikes Saturday hit the last opposition holdout in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, leaving 70 civilians dead in around 24 hours, as regime troops pressed an offensive to pressure rebels to withdraw.

Eleven people also suffered breathing problems in Douma, the last rebel-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta, with first res-ponders accusing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of using “poisonous chlorine gas”.

State media, quoting an official source, said the reports were rebel “fabrications”. The regime has used a combination of a fierce military onslaught and two negotiated withdrawals to empty out 95 percent of the enclave near Damascus, but rebels are still entrenched in its largest town of Douma.

Bombing had subsided as Moscow pursued talks with Jaish al-Islam, the Islamist faction that holds Douma, putting military operations seemingly on hold for about 10 days.But the negotiations crumbled this week and air strikes resumed on Friday, killing 40 civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Britain-based monitor said 30 civilians, including eight children, were killed on Saturday in similar raids.

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