Air strikes on Syria’s Ghouta kill 30 civilians as thousands flee their homes

Air strikes on Eastern Ghouta killed at least 30 civilians on Saturday, a monitor said, almost a month into a blistering Russia-backed Assad assault on the Syrian rebel enclave outside Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights could not say who carried out the strikes on the town of Zamalka in a southern pocket of the enclave.

Assad forces have retaken 70 percent of the last rebel bastion on the outskirts of the capital since February 18, carving it up into three shrinking pockets held by different rebels.

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“Warplanes targeted civilians in Zamalka as they prepared to flee” the southern area of the enclave held by the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The regime assault has killed more than 1,390 civilians in the enclave, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

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A new wave of at least 10,000 people fled a rebel pocket to army lines in eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus in the southwest. Rescuers and a monitor said air strikes pounded the besieged zone.

In the northern Afrin region, people ran from other frontlines closing in on their homes as Turkish jets struck the main town, Syrian Kurdish forces and the monitor said. More than 150,000 people have left the town in the last few days, a senior Kurdish official said.

The two offensives – one by the Syrian army with Russia’s support, and another led by Turkey with its allied Syrian rebels – entered decisive phases this week. Both have shown how foreign backers and their Syrian allies are reshaping the map after the defeat of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate last year.

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