Syria's shelling of Damascus suburb kills 98

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This would make Monday one of the deadliest days for the district since it came under siege in 2013.

Surveillance planes buzzed overhead before carrying out raids on a pair of Eastern Ghouta towns, AFP's correspondents in the enclave said.

Syrian forces stepped up an offensive to retake the area earlier this month.

Other insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, including Islamist factions, say the Syrian government and Russian Federation are using the jihadist presence as a pretext to continue their bombardment.

Although the regime claims to target areas belonging to "terrorists", images taken by Anadolu Agency in Haresta, Eastern Ghouta show the bombardments targeting civilians. Nine militants were killed, the group said of the attacks near Damascus over a 24-hour period.

The area that has been under tight siege since a year ago where people suffer from food shortage is home to some 400,000 people as well as thousands of insurgents belonging to different factions.

Turkey warned that it would open fire on regime forces if they sided with the Kurds, raising the prospect of the most direct confrontation between Turkish and Syrian troops since the start of Syria's war in 2011. People are fearful of it becoming another Aleppo scenario.

Residents and aid workers say the "de-escalation" deals have brought no relief.

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Media caption Father describes a ‘miserable day for Eastern Ghouta
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Father describes a ‘miserable day for Eastern Ghouta

The death toll is rising because medical facilities were also hit.

How bad is the situation in the Eastern Ghouta? .

Air strikes have left about 250 civilians dead, with retaliatory rocket fire on Damascus killing about 20, the monitor said.

In December worldwide aid organisations warned conditions in the rebel-held area had reached a "critical point" for civilians because of shortages of food, fuel and medicines.

The situation in the Eastern Ghouta has flared up over the past two months, when the rebels, including the al-Qaida-linked ones, unleashed a massive offensive against a key Syrian military base in the Harasta city in Eastern Ghouta.

"In the United Nations, the topic of humanitarian problems in the Eastern Ghouta and Idlib is being actively hyped up", he said, according to Russian media reports. If captured by government forces it would be another major victory for Assad since the conflict began seven years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and an estimated five million have fled the country.

But rebels have denied the claim, with top Jaish al-Islam figure Mohammad Alloush telling AFP there were no negotiations. Eastern Ghouta is in one of these areas, where violence is meant to be contained, but the agreement does not include a former al Qaeda affiliate which has a small presence there.

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