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Air Strikes Hit Damascus’ Ghouta Ahead of Expanding Syria’s Ceasefire | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian child waits to receive treatment at a makeshift hospital after he was injured in shelling on the rebel-held town of Arbin on July 24, 2017. AFP

Moscow, Beirut- Nine civilians were killed on Tuesday by airstrikes carried out either by Syria’s regime or Russia on Arbin in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

The strikes came as Moscow opened a new channel of negotiations with opposition factions to expand the truce that already began in parts of the area last Friday.

“On the night of Monday-Tuesday, a warplane raided central Arbin in eastern Ghouta, killing 9 civilians including at least four children and a woman and injuring around 30 others,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

It added that since the beginning of the truce on July 22, Tuesday’s casualties were considered the first.

An AFP correspondent who visited the town’s hospital early on Tuesday saw at least five small bodies laid out on the floor, wrapped in white shrouds.

Last Saturday, a truce entered into effect in Eastern Ghouta, only hours after Russia announced reaching an agreement on how the Russian police and regime forces will deploy in checkpoints near al-Wafideen refugee camp, the crossing point between Ghouta and Damascus.

A leading opposition officer in Arbin told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that Russia has already sent messages to open a negotiation channel with “Faylaq al-Rahman,” which controls the central parts of Ghouta, with an aim to annex it with the western parts of the area, including Arbin, to the truce.

Last week, Jaysh al-Islam accepted to join the ceasefire agreement in Ghouta, which only included the city of Douma.

Meanwhile, a Kurdish source confirmed a report published by the Independent newspaper on Tuesday about the establishment of a coordination center between the Russian army, regime forces and Kurdish militants in the countryside of Raqqa.

The Independent said that “after a sweeping Syrian military advance to the edge of the besieged ISIS “capital” of Raqqa, the Russians, the Syrian army and Kurds of the YPG militia – theoretically allied to the US – have set up a secret coordination center in the desert of eastern Syria to prevent “mistakes” between the Russian-backed and American-supported forces now facing each other across the Euphrates river.”