February 6, 2015 / 8:19 AM / 3 years ago

Syrian air strikes kill 82 after rebel rocket attack: monitor

A general view of the destruction after what activists said were at least 20 air strikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighbourhood of Damascus February 5, 2015.Mohammed Badra

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian air force strikes killed 82 people in an opposition district outside Damascus following rocket attacks by rebels that hit the government-controlled center of the capital, a monitoring group said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said the air force conducted 60 strikes on the Eastern Ghouta district on Thursday and into Friday. Eighteen children and 11 fighters were among the dead, it said.

High death tolls from air attacks are not rare but the Observatory said the focused barrage was a response to rocket attacks by Islam Army insurgents on Thursday, which killed 10 people in Damascus.

Syria's state news agency SANA said on Friday that the army had "eliminated scores of terrorists, the majority of them from the so-called 'Islam Army' organization in the villages of Eastern Ghouta in the Damascus countryside."

It said the army had also carried out a series of strikes in the district of Jobar, and special operations in Zamalka and Erbin.

The Observatory said 26 people were also killed in insurgent-held areas of Aleppo on Thursday.

A message on Thursday on a Twitter account thought to belong to Islam Army chief Zahran Alloush said Thursday's rocket attack was revenge for what the Syrian military had done to Eastern Ghouta. Alloush described Damascus as a "military zone" and said his group would respond to any air force strikes.

Islam Army was formed by a merger of rebel factions in 2013 and has received backing from Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations says 200,000 people have been killed since 2011 in Syria's civil war, which started with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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