Syrian Civil Defence volunteers, also knowns as the White Helmets, rescue children from a damaged building following a reported airstrike that targeted the Idlib bus station on January 18, 2017. / AFP / Omar haj kadour
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As Daesh (ISIS) closes in on government-held areas of Syria's Deir al-Zor, residents said they are terrified of falling victim to the mass killings for which the militants have become infamous.Daesh launched a fierce assault Saturday to capture the government-held third of the city, as well as the adjacent military airport; 160 people have been killed."Civilians in the city are terrified and anxious, afraid that Daesh will enter [government-held parts of] the city since they accuse us of being 'regime thugs,'" Abu Nour said.He spoke by phone from inside the city, roughly 1 kilometer from approaching Daesh forces.As the group advanced on ancient city Palmyra in 2015, it killed dozens of civilians, accusing them of being regime loyalists, then staged mass executions of government troops in the city's theater.On the diplomatic front, key rebel group Ahrar al-Sham said Wednesday it would not take part in peace talks, organized by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital next week aimed at ending the war.Ahrar al-Sham, which counts thousands of fighters in central and northern Syria, said its decision was due to "the lack of implementation of the cease-fire" in force since Dec. 30 and ongoing Russian airstrikes over Syria.
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