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Death toll from market attack in Syrian capital rises to 38

The government blamed the attack on rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs.

The death toll from an insurgent mortar assault on a Damascus market has risen to 38, state media said, making it one of the deadliest attacks in the Syrian capital since the start of the seven-year civil war.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll from Tuesday’s attack even higher, at 43, including 11 pro-government fighters.

The government blamed the attack on rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, where Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes have been waging a major offensive over the past month.

Mohammed Haitham al-Husseini, director of the hospital in Damascus, told Al-Ikhbariya that 35 others were wounded in the mortar attack, with six in intensive care. He said most of the casualties were women and children.

Witnesses told state-run TV that the mortar fell during rush hour in the popular market on the eve of Mother’s Day, celebrated in the Middle East with the start of spring.

A child said he was out shopping with his family for Mother’s Day when they heard a huge explosion.

“Everyone started running, and people were going into narrow streets to give first aid to others,” the child said.

A woman speaking in the hospital said her niece, who was injured from shrapnel, lost her four-year old son.

Government forces meanwhile continued to pound opposition-held areas with shelling and air strikes.

The assault on eastern Ghouta has displaced 45,000 people, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Before the latest offensive, it was estimated that 400,000 people were trapped in the besieged region.

Government forces have made major gains in recent days, leaving just a small fraction of eastern Ghouta under rebel control.

President Bashar Assad paid a rare visit to troops on the front lines over the weekend.

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