Russian-backed Syrian forces targeted eastern Ghouta on Friday after a relative calm period in the besieged region. 40 people were reported dead in the airstrikes, among them at least eight children.

Destruction in Syria (archive)

Destruction in Syria (archive) Photo Credit: via Wikimedia Commons

After two weeks of relative calm, at least 40 people were killed in heavy airstrikes on Friday on rebel-held Douma in Syria’s besieged eastern Ghouta. Eight children were reportedly among the casualties.

Syrian state media had said the strikes were a retaliation for a recent shelling of regime-controlled areas by rebels. In response, an evacuation agreement signed with the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group that contorls Douma has been put on hold. Syria’s state SANA news agency reported that the retaliatory attack on Douma inflicted “heavy losses upon the armed groups,” while activist and human rights observatories reported a large number of civilian casualties.

Last month, the Syrian Army captured most of the last rebel-held enclave. Since the beginning of a government offensive in February, more than 1,600 were reported killed in the region. Russian military forces claimed that almost 80,000 people were evacuated from the enclave since Moscow had announced a humanitarian “corridor” to allow civilians to escape the area.