Almost 120 people were killed across Syria during a 24-hour period beginning on Tuesday night as both pro-Assad forces and rebels bombarded heavily populated areas without any thought for the lives of non-combatants.
In one of the deadliest attacks in the Syrian capital in the country’s seven-year civil war, 44 people, most of them women and children, were killed when anti-government fighters fired mortar shells on a busy market in Damascus on Tuesday night.
In another bloody scene, an airstrike killed 21 people, 16 of them children, in a rebel-held province in northwestern Syria on Wednesday. The children, between seven and 10 years old, were leaving their schools in Kfar Batkeeh village when jets began flying overhead.
Raghda Ghanoum, an activist near Kfar Batkeeh, said the children and four adults took cover in a cave nearby, where the airstrikes hit. Ghanoum said she documented 21 victim names, including 16 children.
Meanwhile, government forces pounded opposition-held areas in Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta, with shelling and airstrikes on Tuesday, killing 56 people.
The violence in both government-held and opposition-held areas came as Syrians celebrated Mother’s Day, turning the occasion that ushers the spring season into a blood-spattered day for families on both sides of the conflict.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 were people killed in the airstrikes on Kfar Batkeeh village.
The organisation put the death toll in the market shelling in Damascus at 43, including 11 pro-government fighters. Videos of the aftermath posted online showed scenes of chaos, with people screaming and bodies and store mannequins strewn across the ground.
Hospital director Mohammed Haitham al Husseini told Al Ikhbariya TV that 35 others were wounded in the mortar attack, with six in intensive care. He said most of the casualties were women and children.
Witnesses told state-run TV that the mortar shells fell during rush hour in the popular market on the eve of Mother’s Day, celebrated in the Middle East with the start of spring. A child said he was out shopping with his family for Mother’s Day when they heard a huge explosion. “Everyone started running, and people were going into narrow streets to give first aid to others,” the child said.
A woman in the hospital said her niece, who was wounded by shrapnel, lost her four-year old son. “We just saw him in the morgue,” the woman told Al Ikhbariya. The TV network did not identify the woman or the child.
The government blamed the attack on rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, where Syrian troops and Russian warplanes have been waging a major offensive over the past month that has killed hundreds of people.
Assault on Douma
The first-responders group, known as the White Helmets, said 56 civilians were killed on Tuesday in Douma, the largest town in eastern Ghouta, as government forces stepped up their assault to dislodge the last pockets of resistance in the region outside the capital.
Video from the White Helmets showed rescue workers surrounded by fire and ongoing shelling struggling to retrieve survivors from a building in Douma.
The assault on eastern Ghouta has displaced 45,000 people, the United Nations said. Before the latest offensive, it was estimated that 400,000 people were trapped in the besieged region. The rebels first seized the area in 2012.