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Scores killed in Syria as air strikes pummel rebel, Islamic State territory

Russian and Syrian jets targeted the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta and an Islamic State-held part of Deir Ezzor
A man amid rubble following a reported Syrian air strike on Sunday in Mesraba in Eastern Ghouta, east of Damascus (AFP)

Scores of people have been killed in air strikes across Syria as government and Russian jets pounded-rebel held areas.

On Sunday, government air strikes on the areas of Mesraba and Madira - in Damascus' eastern Ghouta region - killed 21 civilians, while artillery fire on the town of Douma killed another two civilians, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

"The toll could rise further because of the number of wounded people in a serious condition," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Among the dead were four children, the Observatory said.

Government bombardment of Eastern Ghouta in the past two weeks has killed more than 100 people, according to the Observatory.

Rebels have also fired from the area into Damascus, killing several people.

'Epicentre of suffering'

Humanitarian access to Eastern Ghouta has remained limited despite the implementation of a truce zone, and a United Nations official referred to the region as the "epicentre of suffering" in Syria.

Bassam Khabieh, a Ghouta-based photographer who in late October documented the grim effects of malnutrition on the district's children, told Middle East Eye last week that the situation was becoming increasingly dire.

"Food is in short supply," he said. "And it is so expensive. Most important medicines are missing now, especially those used for cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

"With time it's getting worst, you know - there is no alternative for what we lose."

Syria's East Ghouta sinks into abyss as siege and air attacks kill dozens
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Firas al-Abdallah, another photographer in Ghouta, said a "de-escalation" agreement had had little effect.

"It never stops," he said. "We have no de-escalation here in Ghouta. The agreement is only ink on paper."

Russian strikes in Deir Ezzor

Russian air strikes on Sunday morning killed at least 53 civilians, including 21 children, in a village held by the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province, a monitor said in a new toll.

"The toll increased after removing the debris in a long day of rescue operation," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP, adding the strikes hit "residential buildings" in the village of al-Shafah on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

Russia is a close ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and in September 2015 it began a military intervention in support of his government that has gradually helped Damascus regain territory.

Deir Ezzor is one of the last places IS militants hold territory in the country, after being driven from their major strongholds including their one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqqa city.

The oil-rich eastern province that borders Iraq was once almost completely under IS control, but the militants now hold just 9 percent of Deir Ezzor, according to the Observatory.

They have faced two separate offensives there, one led by the government with Russian backing and the other by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.