BEIRUT

Middle East

Airstrikes hit near Damascus during aid distribution: NGO

A Free Syrian Army fighter looks after firing a tank shell during what they said was an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad in Kvrbasin village of Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib May 23, 2014. Picture taken 23 May, 2014. REUTERS/Rasem Ghareeb

BEIRUT: Syria's air force struck a besieged rebel-held town Saturday as U.N. and Red Crescent workers distributed aid there, a monitor and activists said.

"Two airstrikes hit Douma during a visit of a delegation of the United Nations to the town's outskirts," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists said one of the strikes hit an area adjacent to a warehouse where aid is being stored, but that aid was distributed nonetheless.

Douma is in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province, where rebels are under siege and residents suffer terrible humanitarian shortages.

Activist Hassan Takieddin said 400 aid parcels were distributed "to the whole of Eastern Ghouta. That is very little."

The UN's visit to the town is the first since March, he said.

Meanwhile, state news agency SANA said four people were killed and nine wounded in eastern Damascus, blaming "terrorists," the regime's term for rebels.

A police source cited by the agency said the blast was caused by a device comprising 30 kilograms of explosives.

In Aleppo, troops evacuated wounded comrades and detainees from the central prison that had been under rebel siege for more than a year until Thursday, said the Observatory.

The wounded soldiers and prisoners were transferred to a hospital in western Aleppo, the group added.

The army, backed by pro-regime militia and Lebanon's Hezbollah, broke the rebels' siege on the prison Thursday.

The developments come as the Observatory said the death toll from a Thursday evening attack by rebels on a campaign rally in Daraa for President Bashar al-Assad's re-election bid had risen to 37.

"Among them were 19 civilians, including four children, 12 members of the popular defence committees (pro-regime militia) and six soldiers," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The attack also wounded dozens, said the Observatory, which had initially reported a death toll of 21.

Assad faces two little known challengers in next month's vote and is widely expected to clinch a third seven-year term despite the civil war, which has killed more than 160,000 people.

The election will only be held in regime-controlled areas, and has been dismissed by the opposition and its Western backers as a farce.

 

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Summary

Syria's air force struck a besieged rebel-held town Saturday as U.N. and Red Crescent workers distributed aid there, a monitor and activists said.

Activists said one of the strikes hit an area adjacent to a warehouse where aid is being stored, but that aid was distributed nonetheless.

The army, backed by pro-regime militia and Lebanon's Hezbollah, broke the rebels' siege on the prison Thursday.

The attack also wounded dozens, said the Observatory, which had initially reported a death toll of 21 .


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