Strike near school in Syria's Idlib kills 16 children: monitor

The rocket landed in the Kashkoul market close to rebel-held parts of Eastern Ghouta, which has been under heavy bombardment by the Syrian army and its allies since last month.

Monther Fares, a spokesman for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group, said the deal involves the departure starting Thursday morning of opposition fighters from his group to northern Syria.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday it had opened a new "humanitarian corridor" near Harasta but did not indicate that this could be part of any rebel pullout deal.

Johnson added that with Assad now controlling 75 percent of the population and 50 percent of the territory, there is "a huge amount of slaughter still to come", so the best thing would be "to get round the table in Geneva and begin the process of a new constitutional settlement for Syria". "If I was a citizen, I would not accept to stay in Adra for five minutes, with this tragic situation", Ali al-Zaatari told AFP, referring to a regime-held area to which thousands of civilians have fled.

Years of siege and bombardment have been a strategy by the Syrian army to force rebels to surrender and help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recover all of Aleppo, Homs and other areas.

Before the regime assault, some 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta had lived under government siege since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages.

At least 29 people were killed and scores injured on Tuesday when a rocket landed in a busy market place in an eastern suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, state media said.

More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria's civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protest.

Meanwhile, militants from the al-Qaeda-linked Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group are going to evacuate the city of Harasta in the Eastern Ghouta.

Syrian pro-government forces advance on the outskirts of Ayn Tarma in Eastern Ghouta as they continue to press their offensive to capture the militant-held enclave on the doorstep of Damascus on March 21, 2018.

"The deal has been finalised and it could come into effect soon after a ceasefire is announced as early as Wednesday", said one official familiar with the talks.

A local official in the opposition-run Harasta council was quoted by opposition news outlets that a deal had been reached but did not say when it was expected to be implemented.

On Monday an airstrike in Arbin in eastern Ghouta killed 15 children and two women sheltering in the basement of a school, the Observatory said.

Rebels and residents say napalm and incendiary weapons, which Damascus and Moscow deny using, were dropped on several civilian areas to force rebels to surrender.

Last Sunday, the Syrian army had given the rebels of Harasta an ultimatum to withdraw, state media said.

"They bomb us to force us to leave our homes and everything behind us and say imminent death faces those who stay", Iyad Abdul Aziz, head of the local council in Douma, told Reuters.

Abdel Rahman said the strike hit children coming out of a nearby school.

The Harasta deal may add pressure on the two main rebel groups - Failaq al-Rahman in the southern pocket and Jaish al-Islam in Douma - to also reach understandings. He said most of the casualties were women and children.

Idlib, in northwestern Syria, is subject to government air raids.

Syrian rescuers and a war monitor say an airstrike in the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwestern Syria has killed at least 13 people, a lot of them children.

  • Joey Payne