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Airstrike kills 16 Syrian civilians

BEIRUT: At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens wounded on Saturday in an airstrike on an opposition-held area outside Syria’s capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
It said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike on the town Hammuriyeh in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta.
“Sixteen civilians, including a child, were killed and around 50 others wounded in an airstrike on the main street in the town of Hammuriyeh,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
It was not immediately clear if all the wounded were civilians or if some were opposition fighters, he said, adding that the death toll could rise further because a number of the injured were in serious condition.
The Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus has been under a devastating regime siege since 2012, and is also the regular target of regime airstrikes and artillery fire.
It is the last remaining opposition stronghold near Damascus, where a string of local “reconciliation deals” have seen villages and towns brought back under the control of President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Syria’s Army and its allies retook a village near Hama on Saturday, a Syrian military source said, as the regime tried to turn back a major insurgent offensive, but bitter fighting continued, the Observatory said.
Assad and his allies, Russia, Iran and Shiite militias from nearby countries, are seeking to staunch the biggest opposition assault in months which began this week in Damascus and the Hama countryside.
Insurgents have made big advances toward Hama, taking about a dozen towns and villages and moving to within a few kilometers of the city and its military airbase, the Observatory said.
“Units of our armed forces and allied forces restored the town of Kawkab and continue their military operations in more than one direction of the northern Hama countryside,” the military source said.
The Observatory said opposition fighters had been forced to withdraw under rocket fire from some of the positions they had occupied, but mutual shelling in parts of the Hama battlefront continued.
In Damascus, the army said it had managed to recapture all the positions it lost early in the week to the opposition in the Jobar area, which is on the northeastern fringe of the central district of the capital.
In another development, the second phase of an evacuation of opposition fighters in Homs as part of a deal to surrender the city’s last insurgent pocket of Al-Waer to the regime has been delayed until Monday, a senior official and a war monitor said on Saturday.
Homs Province Gov. Talal Barazi was cited by city officials in a message to Reuters as saying the operation would continue on Monday after having earlier said it would go ahead as planned on Saturday.
The Observatory said the evacuation was being postponed because of the fighting that began on Tuesday in Hama province.
The departure of a first group of opposition fighters and their families from Al-Waer began a week ago and the evacuation is expected to be one of the largest of its kind, opposition activists and the war monitor, the Observatory said.
Under the deal, as with others that have been previously agreed for besieged pockets, insurgents are able to leave with light weapons for opposition-held parts of northern Syria along with family members and other civilians who choose to depart.
Between 10,000-15,000 people were expected to leave Homs in weekly batches, the Observatory and opposition activists have said.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-regime protests.
Regime ally Russia and opposition backer Turkey brokered a nationwide truce in December, but violence has continued across the country.

BEIRUT: At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens wounded on Saturday in an airstrike on an opposition-held area outside Syria’s capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
It said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike on the town Hammuriyeh in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta.
“Sixteen civilians, including a child, were killed and around 50 others wounded in an airstrike on the main street in the town of Hammuriyeh,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
It was not immediately clear if all the wounded were civilians or if some were opposition fighters, he said, adding that the death toll could rise further because a number of the injured were in serious condition.
The Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus has been under a devastating regime siege since 2012, and is also the regular target of regime airstrikes and artillery fire.
It is the last remaining opposition stronghold near Damascus, where a string of local “reconciliation deals” have seen villages and towns brought back under the control of President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Syria’s Army and its allies retook a village near Hama on Saturday, a Syrian military source said, as the regime tried to turn back a major insurgent offensive, but bitter fighting continued, the Observatory said.
Assad and his allies, Russia, Iran and Shiite militias from nearby countries, are seeking to staunch the biggest opposition assault in months which began this week in Damascus and the Hama countryside.
Insurgents have made big advances toward Hama, taking about a dozen towns and villages and moving to within a few kilometers of the city and its military airbase, the Observatory said.
“Units of our armed forces and allied forces restored the town of Kawkab and continue their military operations in more than one direction of the northern Hama countryside,” the military source said.
The Observatory said opposition fighters had been forced to withdraw under rocket fire from some of the positions they had occupied, but mutual shelling in parts of the Hama battlefront continued.
In Damascus, the army said it had managed to recapture all the positions it lost early in the week to the opposition in the Jobar area, which is on the northeastern fringe of the central district of the capital.
In another development, the second phase of an evacuation of opposition fighters in Homs as part of a deal to surrender the city’s last insurgent pocket of Al-Waer to the regime has been delayed until Monday, a senior official and a war monitor said on Saturday.
Homs Province Gov. Talal Barazi was cited by city officials in a message to Reuters as saying the operation would continue on Monday after having earlier said it would go ahead as planned on Saturday.
The Observatory said the evacuation was being postponed because of the fighting that began on Tuesday in Hama province.
The departure of a first group of opposition fighters and their families from Al-Waer began a week ago and the evacuation is expected to be one of the largest of its kind, opposition activists and the war monitor, the Observatory said.
Under the deal, as with others that have been previously agreed for besieged pockets, insurgents are able to leave with light weapons for opposition-held parts of northern Syria along with family members and other civilians who choose to depart.
Between 10,000-15,000 people were expected to leave Homs in weekly batches, the Observatory and opposition activists have said.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-regime protests.
Regime ally Russia and opposition backer Turkey brokered a nationwide truce in December, but violence has continued across the country.

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