Syrian government air strikes targeting town of Wadi Barada reportedly kill 14 and wound dozens of civilians
At least 14 civilians were killed and several others wounded in a series of barrel bomb attacks on rebel-held areas near Damascus on Monday, according to local activists.
Air strikes by the Assad government targeted the town of Wadi Barada, northwest of the capital, and wounded dozens of women and children, activists said.
Videos posted on social media by various opposition groups showed pro-Assad forces intensifying their assault on the town.
The White Helmets rescue team, who were helping people stuck in houses hit by barrel bombs, said many people were trapped under the rubble after the heavy bombardment.
Barrel bombs have been heavily criticised in the UN and by world leaders because of their indiscriminate nature leading to mass civilian casualties and destruction of property.
The bombs are typically constructed from large oil drums which are filled with explosives, nails and scrap metal. They are often droped from Syrian government helicopters over residential areas where they are known to have maximum impact.
Activists told Middle East Eye that the Syrian government was in the third day of its offensive against the Jaish al-Islam opposition group, which controls Wadi Barada.
The Syrian army along with the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, launched its operations to retake Wadi Barada after accusing the rebels of contaminating the local water supply with diesel.
Wadi Barada, located near the Lebanese border, has been under siege since 2014, with food, water and electricity all in short supply.
21 civilians 'executed'
Meanwhile, Syrian state media accused rebel fighters of executing 21 civilians, including women and children, at close range as they fled Aleppo last week.
The bodies were found in two neighbourhoods in east Aleppo, state news agency SANA said late on Sunday.
The head of Aleppo's forensic unit Zaher Hajjo told SANA that "21 corpses of civilian victims, including five children and four women, killed by terrorist groups" were examined.
"The bodies were found in prisons run by the terrorist groups in Sukkari and al-Kalasseh, and they were found to have been executed by gunshot at very close range," Hajjo was quoted as saying.
According to a report published earlier this year, more than one million Syrians are believed to be trapped in 46 besieged areas across the country.