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111 Killed by Syrian Regime Airstrikes on Marketplace

At least 300 others were injured in the attacks, which targeted a crowded marketplace in Douma, a suburb around seven miles from Damascus.
August 17, 2015, 12:10pm
Screengrab via YouTube/Syria Rebels Gathering

The death toll from Syrian government airstrikes on a rebel-held town near Damascus on Sunday has reached at least 111 people, with hundreds more injured, according to local rescue workers.

Multiple attacks hit a crowded marketplace in Douma, a suburb around seven miles from the capital, as local residents gathered to buy food in the early afternoon.

The Douma Civil Defense team of volunteer search and rescue workers has now documented 95 of the dead by name, a further five that couldn't be identified and 11 bodies still stuck in the rubble, the group's local media liaison officer Majid Khalaf told VICE News on Monday. He added that 300 people had been injured and the death toll was likely to rise still further as rescuers continued to dig through the ruins.

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Graphic footage uploaded by local activists in the aftermath of the attack showed bodies being carried away from a marketplace amid ripped apart buildings and overturned vehicles.

Related: Assad's 'Asshole' Cousin Arrested in Syria After Alleged Road Rage Murder

Images of dozens of dead bodies, including children, lined up on the ground were subsequently posted to social media by the Damascus area Civil Defense account. VICE news was not able to independently verify the content, but it is consistent with other reporting from the area.

Khalaf said the Douma Civil Defence team of 25 that responded to the attack was overwhelmed by the scale of the devastation and called in help from other teams in neighboring towns. Two of its members were also wounded in a follow-up strike on the market, a so-called "double tap" technique commonly used by the regime and designed to cause maximum casualties by targeting rescuers.

Video via YouTube/Syria Rebels Gathering

Government forces have been pounding Douma with attack jets as well as so-called barrel bombs — improvised explosives rolled out of helicopters. Dozens of civilians were also killed in a strike last week, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Armed opposition groups, including the Islamist Jaysh al-Islam, operate in Douma and have targeted Damascus with shelling and rocket fire.

The attacks come as United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien makes his first visit to Syria in a bid to step up relief efforts for what is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

More than 220,000 people have been killed since the war began four years ago, 3.9 million people have fled the country, and a further 7.6 million have been internally displaced as of March. Hostilities began when the Syrian government met mostly peaceful protests against dictator Bashar al-Assad's rule with gunfire, beatings and arrest.

Armed opposition groups began to form and the uprising transformed into a grinding civil war with ugly sectarian dimensions that sucked in countries across the region and led to the rise of a number of jihadist organizations including the so-called Islamic State.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck