AMMAN: Syrian regime aircraft bombed a crowded public market northeast of Damascus on Sunday morning, residents and local officials told Syria Direct, killing at least 16 civilians in the latest large-scale attack to strike besieged opposition-held districts just outside the capital city in recent weeks.
On Sunday morning, an estimated six “rockets” fired from warplanes struck the central market in the town of Misraba in the besieged, opposition-held East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, Siraj Mahmoud, spokesman for the area’s Civil Defense branch told Syria Direct. He counted 16 dead by Sunday afternoon, with “the death toll likely to rise.”
Syrian state news outlet SANA did not report the bombing on Sunday. The reported strikes in Misraba come as rebels with the Islamist Ahrar a-Sham militia battle regime ground forces 1.5 kilometers west of the town. There, Ahrar is battling for control of a Syrian army base containing military vehicles just outside of the opposition-held East Ghouta town of Harasta.
Hours after Ahrar launched their ground offensive earlier this month, regime airstrikes against towns and villages across East Ghouta intensified. The wave of attacks has hit rebel-held towns close to the front line—including Misraba—particularly hard.
Aftermath of Sunday’s reported airstrikes on Misraba. Photo courtesy of Ghouta Media Center.
“There’s a huge sense of fear [in Misraba],” Anas, a 24-year-old vegetable salesman who said he was in the market at the time of the attack on Sunday morning, told Syria Direct. “The streets are empty now, after everyone sought safety elsewhere, in underground bomb shelters or their houses.”
Videos and pictures of the Misraba bombing quickly spread on social media on Sunday. In one video filmed by Civil Defense volunteers responding to the attack, first responders remove bloodied survivors from the pavement of what was once the town’s largest market. A motorcycle lies on its side with its owner, who appears to be dead, still straddling the seat. A handful of civilians help load the wounded into a Civil Defense van, while others walk about or stand in place, stunned.
“I saw people tending to the injured,” Anas told Syria Direct several hours after the bombing, from his home in Misraba. “Others were just running home.”
A handful of other aerial attacks hit towns across East Ghouta on Sunday. In Madeira, one kilometer southwest of Misraba, airstrikes killed at least seven residents, the Civil Defense reported via Facebook, with two children among the victims. At least two people were also killed three kilometers northeast in Douma, the largest town in the rebel-held enclave.
After the reported airstrikes in Misraba Sunday. Photo courtesy of Syrian Civil Defense-Outer Damascus.
East Ghouta, a collection of rebel-held suburbs immediately northeast of regime-held Damascus, is officially part of a de-escalation deal brokered by Iran and Russia in May that established four ceasefire zones across the country.
Syrian government forces have encircled East Ghouta since 2013, tightly controlling who and what comes in and out. The siege intensified in recent months after regime forces closed a key trade crossing into the enclave and shut down a network of smuggling tunnels that once brought food and other supplies to an estimated 400,000 residents.
Malnutrition and a lack of sufficient healthcare have reportedly claimed lives in the enclave in the weeks since the siege intensified, while desperate residents search for any food they can find.
But on Sunday, one Misraba resident Wael Nadhal said his biggest concern is the bombings. A high school student hoping to graduate next year, the 18-year-old said he lives with his family on the third floor of an apartment building close to the scene of Sunday’s attack on Misraba’s market.
“We feel like our house is going to be hit and destroyed,” Nadhal told Syria Direct from his home. “God, our house is so exposed.”
Nadhal’s family considered moving in with his grandfather in Douma in recent days, “but we spoke to him today and there are also bombings there, and people being killed.”
“Where can we go? It’s either bombs or more bombs.”