Dozens killed as Assad's jets target rebels' besieged base
Dozens of people were killed by Syrian regime air strikes and artillery bombardment yesterday as Bashar al-Assad's forces appeared to be preparing an all-out assault on Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
As Assad's troops and their Russian allies brought carnage to the outskirts of the Syrian capital, other pro-regime fighters were reportedly preparing to join with Kurdish forces to repel a Turkish incursion into the pocket of Afrin in northern Syria.
Turkey warned that it would open fire on regime forces if they sided with the Kurds, raising the prospect of the most direct confrontation between Turkish and Syrian troops since the start of Syria's war in 2011.
At least 71 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in 24 hours of intense bombing in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Many of the dead were children and pictures showed rows of small bodies wrapped in bloodied white shrouds.
Five children from one family - Mohammed, Hassan, Hind, Fatima and Sa'adia - were killed along with both of their parents when their neighbourhood was bombarded, activists said.
"Since this morning the bombing has not stopped," Abu Jihad Darawi, a Ghouta resident, said. "I was in the street and 20 rockets hit houses around me. The people are living as if they are dead."
Around 400,000 civilians are trapped inside Eastern Ghouta, which is the last major opposition-held area around Damascus.