'46 killed' in new air strikes on Ghouta

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Heavy air strikes targeted a rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta on Friday, killing 12 people and leaving more than 100 injuired in the town of Saqba and Kafr Batna neighbourhood, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A medical charity supporting hospitals in eastern Ghouta, the Syrian American Medical Society, said doctors in Kafr Batna were treating patients for severe burn wounds.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that he "profoundly regrets that resolution 2401, concerning the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria, has not been implemented".

The Syrian Civil Defence search-and-rescue group said it has identified 42 bodies so far, and it expects the death toll to rise. The Syrian army claims to have retaken control of around 70 percent of the enclave from the rebels since it launched its monthlong offensive.

The Syrian war entered its eighth year this week having killed half a million people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, including almost 6 million who have fled overseas in one of the worst refugee crises of modern times.

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Syrian government forces stepped up their offensive in the rebel-held eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus, capturing a major town and closing in on another under the cover of Russia's air power.

Moscow and Damascus accuse the rebels of having forced people to stay in harm's way to use them as human shields.

Syrian Kurdish forces say that Turkish military's shelling and airstrikes against purported positions of the People's Protection Units (YPG) militants in Syria's northwestern town of Afrin have claimed the lives of almost two dozen civilians. Others said rebels hoarded food and humiliated civilians, even shooting people trying to leave. The Observatory put the early figure at several hundred.

The Observatory said at least some 500 people managed to leave Hamouriyeh and flee towards government-controlled areas in the early hours of Friday.

The official added that the people selling arms to the parties of the conflict also bear responsibility for "battlefield behaviour".

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He said the government and Syrian Red Crescent were coordinating to facilitate the safe transport of people from eastern Ghouta "to temporary shelters that are equipped with all the necessary equipment".

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council again demanded a cease-fire throughout Syria and backed a U.N. -endorsed roadmap for a peaceful transition and elections.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Russia, Turkey and Iran announced on Friday after minister-level talks that they will continue Syria peace talks in Astana in mid-May.

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