August 22, 2015 / 7:44 PM / 2 years ago

Over 50 people killed in Syrian missile strikes at rebel areas near Damascus

AMMAN (Reuters) - At least 50 bodies were retrieved from buildings leveled to the ground after Syrian army missiles hit residential areas in the rebel-held northeast of Damascus on Saturday, rescue workers said.

They said more bodies were believed to be under the rubble of buildings occupied by dozens of families in the city of Douma, about 15 km (10 miles) northeast of Damascus, with dozens of victims taken to field hospitals, many seriously wounded.

Rescue workers said 20 bodies were identified. A further 32 victims remained unidentified and the toll was expected to rise as civil defense workers step up the search amid the rubble of the four multi-storey buildings that were directly hit.

“There are entire families still under the rubble. We couldn‘t reach them yet, because as you know the process of removing debris must be done with extreme caution,” said Majd, an official from the Syrian civil defense corps, a group which operates in rebel-held areas.

The latest casualties follow last Sunday’s air strike on a bustling market place in the same area which killed at least 100 people.

Sunday’s attack on Douma was one of the bloodiest in the four-year-long war that has killed an estimated quarter of a million people and driven 10 million from their homes. The conflict grew out of protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 which were put down with force.

The UK-based Observatory for Human Rights said the heavily populated parts of the area where at least 250,000 civilians lived were probably hit by ground to ground missiles on Saturday, followed by air raids.

A United Nations commission of inquiry into the Syrian war has previously accused the government of indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including the use of barrel bombs regularly dropped on crowded areas.

The Syrian army denies it targets civilian areas and said it strikes at hideouts of armed insurgents who seek to topple Assad.

Reporting by Naline Malla in Beirut and Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; Editing by Dominic Evans

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