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24 Killed in New Syrian Government Airstrikes East of Damascus


People walk past bombed-out buildings after an air raid in the besieged town of Douma, east of Damascus, Syria, Feb. 23, 2018.

Another wave of airstrikes pounded the Syrian rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta Saturday, killing at least 24 people and increasing the civilian death toll over the past week to more than 500, including more than 120 children, a Britain-based monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and witnesses said Saturday the week-long bombing campaign by the Syrian government and Russia has been so relentless that first responders have not had the chance to count bodies.

"Maybe there are many more," said Siraj Mahmoud, a civil defense spokesman. "We weren't able to count the martyrs yesterday or the day before because the warplanes are touring the skies." Syrians often refer to their dead as “martyrs.”

In one of the deadliest aerial assaults of the seven-year-old war, the monitoring group said Saturday's strikes hit Douma, Hammouriyeh and several other towns.

Residents hiding in charitable medical facilities and basements denounced attacks on a dozen hospitals in the area of Ghouta, the only remaining large rebel stronghold near the capital of Damascus.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government. But the government and Russia have previously said they only pursue militants in an effort to stop their mortar attacks on the capital.

Russia has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's primary ally since the war began in March of 2011. Moscow entered the conflict in 2015, tipping the balance of power toward Assad.

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Saturday on a draft resolution that calls for a 30-day cease-fire throughout Syria to allow medical evacuations and aid delivery.

The U.N. says nearly 400,000 people live in eastern Ghouta, which has been under a government blockade since 2013 - resulting in shortages of food and medical supplies.

Eastern Ghouta, about 17 kilometers east of Damascus, is under the control of two Islamist factions and Syria's former al-Qaida affiliate.

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