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Airstrikes by Syria kill scores, activists say

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian government airstrikes killed as many as 100 people in a Damascus suburb Sunday, activists said, in one of the deadliest attacks of the country's four-year-old conflict.

The air raids by President Bashar Assad's military targeted a market in the Douma area of the capital, according to activists and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the fighting.

The airstrikes come as the government is losing significant territory to rebels and to the Islamic State militant group. Increasingly, analysts and Syrians speculate that Assad's hold on power is slipping in a war that has killed more than 230,000 people and displaced millions.

The activists of the Local Coordination Committees said the Sunday attack killed as many as 100 people and wounded 300. The Observatory said more than 80 were killed. On social media, Syria's civil defense rescue service published the names of dozens of people who it said were killed in the attack.

Douma, about 10 miles northeast of Damascus, has been under rebel control for much of the conflict, which started in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against the Syrian leader. Many in the large suburb support a rebel group that captured a nearby army base from the government Saturday. The regime's loss of the base may have triggered the bombardment of the market in Douma.

Images posted on Twitter purported to show the aftermath of the airstrikes, including dozens of bodies wrapped in white sheets and laid on the ground. Others showed bombed-out structures and men frantically transporting the wounded, including children, from the site.

Attacks have recently increased in the Damascus area, including inside the city, a government stronghold that had long been largely isolated from the fighting elsewhere.

Last week, rebel shelling of the capital killed about 30 people. That attack was launched ahead of a visit by the foreign minister of Iran, which is a key ally of Assad's government.

Iran, which has propped up Assad with billions of dollars in aid, appears to have taken an increasingly prominent role in Syrian affairs. Last week, Iranian officials brokered a cease-fire with a rebel group in three Syrian towns. According to rebels and former Syrian diplomats, officials from the Assad government did not participate in the talks, which were held in Turkey. That cease-fire broke down, however.

Last month, Assad acknowledged battlefield setbacks because of a manpower crisis in the military.



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