Intense Syrian government shelling and airstrikes on rebel-held Damascus suburbs killed nearly 130 people in two days, marking some of the deadliest bombardment of the rebellious region in three years, a monitoring group and paramedics said Tuesday.
Retaliatory shells rained down on Damascus, killing at least eight people and causing panic among residents of the Syrian capital, seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
The violence in the capital and nearby areas came as scores of pro-government gunmen began entering the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin. Turkish troops shelled the areas shortly after the fighters entered the area, forcing journalists to flee. Turkish state media reported the pro-government forces then fell back 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Afrin city.
The targeted suburbs — scattered across an area known as eastern Ghouta — have been subjected to weeks-long bombardment that has killed and wounded hundreds of people. Opposition activists say government forces have brought in more reinforcements in recent days, suggesting a major assault is imminent to recapture the area that is the last main rebel stronghold near Damascus.