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Dozens Said Killed In Separate Attacks In Syria’s Ghouta, Afrin


People walk with their belongings as they flee a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta on March 15.

Dozens of people have been killed in separate attacks in Syria’s rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta and the northern town of Afrin, a war monitor says.

At least 31 people were killed in Russian air strikes on eastern Ghouta, near the capital, Damascus, on March 16, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air strikes targeted the Saqba and Kfar Batna areas, in the south of the splintered enclave, the British-based group added.

Meanwhile, shelling and air strikes carried out by Turkish forces killed at least 20 people in the northern Kurdish-held town of Afrin, Syrian Kurdish forces said.

Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, also said that 30 people were wounded as Turkish forces shelled the Ashrafieh neighborhood of the town on March 16.

The Observatory put the death toll at 18.

Turkish forces have surrounded Afrin to drive out Kurdish fighters from the town and the surrounding region.

In both Ghouta and Afrin, tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside areas encircled on the battlefield.

The Observatory said that almost 20,000 civilians fled eastern Ghouta for government-controlled territory on March 15.

Western governments and the United Nations have urged Syrian government forces and their allies, including Russia, to halt attacks that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on February 28 had created "hell on Earth" for civilians stuck in Ghouta.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 16 that the Russian military and the Syrian government were extending a cease-fire in Ghouta as long as it takes to allow all the civilians to leave the area.

More than 30,000 people had fled Afrin in 24 hours and civilians were still trying to slip out on March 16 before Turkish-led forces cut the last exit road, the monitoring group said.

Seven years of war have forced nearly 12 million Syrians from their homes.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters
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