Strike in northwest Syria kills 20, including 16 children: monitor

Tonnes of toxic agents discovered in Syrian areas liberated from terrorists — top brass

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.

Pro-Ankara forces swept into its main city - also named Afrin - on Sunday, sending Kurdish fighters into retreat.

Syrian rebels will evacuate a besieged town in eastern Ghouta, opposition sources and officials and a military media unit run by the government's ally Hezbollah said on Wednesday, the first such deal in the last rebel bastion near the capital. Video 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 were wounded, with six in intensive care.

"Representatives of those countries that scramble to hold emergency sessions in support of terrorists at the UN Security Council in NY plus the Human Rights Council in Geneva have once again kept mum over this atrocious catastrophe whose victims are women and children", the ministry pointed out.

The ministry's letters came in the wake of a deadly attack mounted by terrorists positioned in Eastern Gouta who launched a rocket on a bustling public market in Kashkoul area in Jaramana near Damascus.

ISIL fighters have maintained a presence in parts of Damascus, including in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk and the neighbourhoods of Hajar Al Aswad and Tadamun.

The Syrian army and allied forces have recaptured 70 percent of the territory that was under insurgent control in the enclave and after weeks of bombardment residents are fleeing by the thousands.

On Wednesday morning, Zolotukhin said that in order to provide safe passage to civilians leaving the Harasta al-Basal settlement, the third humanitarian corridor out of Eastern Ghouta had opened.

More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria's civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protest.

There was no indication when the deal would be implemented and one source familiar with the talks said obstacles may delay it for a few days. The battles were among the fiercest in eastern Ghouta in recent years.

Mr Assad has vowed to end what he portrays as a terrorist threat in proximity to his seat of power.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in two separate letters addressed to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the rotating president of the UN Security Council, Karel J.G. van Oosterom, on Wednesday, stated that the ongoing militant mortar and rocket attacks against residential districts "amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity".

On Monday an airstrike in Arbin in eastern Ghouta killed 15 children and two women sheltering in the basement of a school, the Observatory said.

A day earlier, the Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said the planned evacuation of rebels is awaiting consensus among the militiamen in that area after an agreement was recently reached.

The predicament of hundreds of rebels trapped in Harasta, one of the main towns in Eastern Ghouta, worsened after the army succeeded earlier this month in splintering Ghouta into three besieged zones, cutting off Harasta from other areas. State media gave no further details. The rescuers said Russian jets were behind the attack.

The deal for the evacuation of rebels from Harasta should have seen light two days ago, but the rebels didn't honor the agreement, Haidar said.

They have however publicly said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave.

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