Middle East

Damascus air strikes 'kill nearly 200 in 10 days'

Aftermath of air strike in Damascus suburb of Duma (9 February 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The suburb of Duma reportedly came under heavy aerial bombardment on Monday

Air strikes by Syria's air force around Damascus have killed almost 200 people over the past 10 days, activists say.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the strikes were in the Ghouta green belt outside the city, particularly in the suburb of Duma.

Rocket attacks launched from parts of the Ghouta by rebel group Army of Islam killed at least 10 people on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Syrian army units and Hezbollah special forces have also retaken areas south of Damascus.

An Army of Islam representative said the rocket attacks on government-controlled parts of Damascus were "revenge" for the Syrian military bombing civilian areas.

Many of the wounded were taken from the rubble of flattened buildings to medical centres on Tuesday, the Observatory said.

The total number killed in government air strikes in the Ghouta has reached 183 over the past 10 days, according to the same source.

The Observatory reported that one barrel bomb attack on a Ghouta market last Thursday alone killed at least 40 people.

In an interview with the BBC this week, President Bashar al-Assad denied that his army used "indiscriminate" weapons or barrel bombs, which are containers packed with explosives and projectiles.

Counter-offensive

Syrian state media reported that army units alongside fighters from Hezbollah, a militant Lebanese Shia Islamist movement that backs the president, had captured several towns and villages to the south of Damascus on Wednesday.

Image copyright STR
Image caption Syrian state media reported that the army had retaken Deir al-Adas alongside Hezbollah special forces

The seizures were made as part of a government counter-offensive launched against rebel groups including the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which had taken parts of the Quneitra region in late 2014.

Syrian state television said the town of Deir al-Adas and the village of Deir Maker had been retaken, as well as the nearby areas of Tal al-Arous and Tal al-Sarjeh, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Observatory said the operation was led by Hezbollah special forces units and involved Iranian volunteers. Twenty rebel fighters had been killed in a battle on Tuesday alone, it added.