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Rocket fire kills at least 35 in Damascus

March 21, 2018

The attack on Syria's capital, blamed on rebels, comes as the government presses an offensive on eastern Ghouta. Separately, the UN warned over the humanitarian situation in Afrin after Turkish forces took the enclave.

Karte Syrien Homs Aleppo Damaskus Englisch

Rebel rocket fire on a busy market in a suburb of government-controlled Damascus killed at least 35 people on Tuesday, state media reported.

More than 20 others were wounded in the attack on the Kashkol neighborhood. It marked one of the highest death tolls in a single attack targeting the government-held capital.

Read more: Syria is a 'safe country,' say German AfD lawmakers after visit 

Further deaths in eastern Ghouta

The rocket fire came as the Syrian regime and its allies continued to press a month-long offensive against the rebel-held pocket in eastern Ghouta.

Syria airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta
Syrian forces continued to carry out airstrikes in eastern Ghouta on March 20Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Abu Taim

At least 38 civilians were killed on Tuesday in a heavy bombardment of the enclave, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian regime's bid to retake eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, has left more than 1,400 dead. Some 45,000 people have fled the Damascus suburb to government-controlled areas.

Government allied forces now control 80 percent of eastern Ghouta and have split it into three pockets, each controlled by a different rebel faction.

Separately, "Islamic State" (IS) militants took control of a neighborhood in the southern part of eastern Ghouta.

Read moreSyria: Al-Qaida and IS increasingly lose territory to Assad

Read more Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta?

At least 36 soldiers and pro-government militia members were killed in the attack on the neighborhood of Qadam, which the government had captured from rebels last week. IS also has a presence in the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.

UN sounds alarm for displaced, trapped civilians

Meanwhile, the UN warned on Tuesday that civilians are "still trapped and in dire need of aid" in eastern Ghouta, which has been under government siege for nearly five years.

Humanitarian crisis in Syria

Further north, more than 100,000 civilians have been displaced in Afrin since the Turkish military and its rebel allies took control of the Kurdish enclave over the weekend. Another 100,000 civilians are trapped in the countryside.

Many of the civilians are in need of humanitarian aid, the UN said.

The International Committee for the Red Cross said it delivered 25 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians in Tel Rifaat, south-east of Afrin, where many people have fled to.

Read moreTurkey to expand fight against Syrian Kurds east of Afrin

Reports of looting

The aid deliveries arrived amid reports that Turkish-backed rebels were looting Afrin for a third day on Tuesday.

The looting represents an embarrassment for Ankara, which is seeking to rule over the population after scoring a major success in defeating the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was "sensitive" to reports of pillaging and promised Turkey "will not allow it."

cw/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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