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Four civilians dead in air raids on Syria's rebel Douma: monitor

Four civilians dead in air raids on Syria's rebel Douma: monitor

Air strikes killed 40 civilians in the last opposition-held town in Syria's Eastern Ghouta on Friday and the army launched a ground offensive on its outskirts after talks sputtered over a rebel withdrawal.

Syrian state media denied launching chemical attacks as soon as the reports began circulating.

Backed by Russia, Syrian troops have recaptured 95 percent of Ghouta since February 18 through a combination of a deadly air and ground assault and evacuation deals.

Damascus and Moscow enabled civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta, while paving the way for transfer of militants and their families to a northern militant bastion.

Douma is the last rebel-controlled town in Syrias Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling suburb of Damascus that was once the oppositions bastion on the edge of the capital.

The pro-rebel watchdog group said intense battles are raging between the Islam Army and the Syrian government forces, with heavy shelling from the Syrian forces and the Russians on Douma. Many more people had stayed, fearing what might follow departure from home towns they had not abandoned through seven years of war.On Friday, the buses stopped.Speaking before the airstrikes, the medical worker said he had made a decision to stay because his work was not finished.

The resumed assault comes after the apparent failure of negotiations between Jaish al-Islam and regime backer Russian Federation over a rebel withdrawal from Douma.

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Activists said the Islam Army rebels are having difficulties when crossing to areas under the Turkish control in northern Syria on their way to Jarablus, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border, which is the designated destination of the Islam Army. The group wants to remain in Douma and none of the fighters have left, according to Mohammad Alloush, a representative for Jaish al-Islam.

All that remained was its largest town of Douma, held by the Jaish al-Islam Islamist faction and home to tens of thousands of people.

The air and ground offensive on Eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians and caused an worldwide outcry.

Moscow announced a deal with Jaish al-Islam last Sunday, ushering in three consecutive days of evacuations from Douma that saw almost 3,000 fighters and civilians bussed to northern Syria.

The Observatory also said that the Russians promised the rebels that once they hand over their weapons, airstrikes would stop.

Russia's military said the Army of Islam has forced out leaders who were taking part in negotiations to withdraw from Douma and that their fighters have resumed attacks.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the renewed outbreak of fighting in Douma "is of great concern to us".

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