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Syrian forces bombard Douma as toll rises: Monitor

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The Syrian air force bombarded an area northeast of Damascus on Monday, keeping up its attack on a rebel-held district where close to 100 people were killed on Sunday in an air strike on a market, a monitoring group reported.

An insurgent rocket attack on the government-held coastal city of Latakia meanwhile killed at least three people, in the second lethal attack there in four days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and state media reported.

The air strike on Douma, some 10 miles (15 km) northeast of Damascus, was one of the bloodiest single attacks in the four-year-long war that has killed an estimated quarter of a million people and driven 10 million from their homes.

The Syrian opposition group the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said the attack on Douma, where the victims included children, aimed to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible.

In a statement, the Turkey-based coalition said “the feeble position of the Security Council and the international community is a factor helping in the escalation of massacres against Syrian civilians”.

A United Nations commission of inquiry into the Syrian war has previously said the government has been indiscriminate in its shelling and aerial bombardment, including the use of barrel bombs regularly dropped on crowded areas.

A Syrian military source said the air force attacks on Sunday on Douma and the nearby area of Harasta targeted an insurgent group, Islam Army, and were a response to recent insurgent attacks on government-held areas.

The Observatory reported that 96 people were killed. Rescue workers said 95 bodies had been identified and that a further nine victims had yet to be named. The Observatory gave no details of casualties in Monday’s air strikes.

A senior United Nations official, in a statement issued from Damascus, said attacks on civilians were “unlawful, unacceptable and must stop”.

“I am particularly appalled about reports of yesterday’s air strikes, causing scores of civilian deaths and hundreds injured, right in the center of Douma, a besieged part of Damascus,” U.N. Humanitarian Chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said at the end of a three-day visit.

Fighting in and around Damascus – President Bashaw al-Ass ad’s seat of power – has escalated in recent days.

Islam Army, one of the most powerful rebel groups in the eastern Damascus region, launched an attack on government positions in Harasta on Saturday.

Last Wednesday, a barrage of insurgent rockets killed 13 people in Damascus, and government air strikes in the nearby Eastern Ghost region killed 31 people, the Observatory reported.

The Syrian military source said “any escalation toward Damascus” would be met by a “very strong and decisive response”, and denied that civilians were targeted.

The source said rebel groups had sought to position their headquarters in residential neighborhoods. A spokesman for Islam Army denied that claim. “We do not have any presence in the residential areas,” spokesman Islam Alloush said.

State television said the rockets fired at Latakia had come from insurgent-held areas to the north of the city. In addition to the three dead, state TV said another 20 people were wounded in the attack. On Thursday, rocket attacks killed at least two people in the city. Reuters

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