20 civilians killed by Assad regime in E. Ghouta

A Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet takes off from the Hmeymim air base near Latakia Syria

More than 40 people have died in recent air raids by Syrian state forces on rebel-held positions near Damascus.

Citing Syrian civil defense sources, Reuters said that at least 38 civilians have been killed and 147 others injured in heavy airstrikes on the area since Friday.

The war in Syria has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Food is scarce and about 650 people need urgent medical care, but with medicine rationed many are dying.

Eastern Ghouta, a small enclave east of the capital Damascus, is controlled mostly by rebels from the Jaish al-Islam group.

The United Nations has made repeated calls for warring parties to abide by their responsibility to protect children in line with worldwide humanitarian and human rights law.

Supported by Iran-backed militias and intensive Russian bombing, the Syrian army has since last month waged a new campaign to push into the heart of another rebel-held part of Syria, Idlib province in the country's northwest.

The ministry also said two Russian service personnel were killed in a mortar attack on the base by rebels, according to TASS.

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Assad forces have been bombing Eastern Ghouta since November 14.

On January 3, Russia's Defense Ministry said that one of its military helicopters crashed in Syria, killing both pilots aboard.

Elsewhere, there have been reports that at least seven Russian planes were destroyed by rebel shelling at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria on 31 December.

The Russian Ministry of Defense reportedly called the reports of destroyed military aircraft "fake".

"On December 31, 2017, at nightfall, the Hmeymim airfield came under a sudden mortar fire from a mobile militant subversive group".

"Last month, Russian Federation began establishing a permanent presence at Hmeymim and a naval base at Tartous although President Vladimir Putin has ordered a "significant" withdrawal of his military from Syria, declaring their work largely done", Reuters reported.

Russian Federation became involved in the multi-front conflict in September 2015, when it began an aerial campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad's military.

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