At least 43 killed in one of the deadliest attacks in Damascus

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At least 16 children have been slaughtered as they left school after an air strike on a rebel-held province in northwestern Syria today.

The defeat in Eastern Ghouta would mark the worst setback for the anti-Assad rebellion since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing, ground assaults and the promise of safe passage out.

It is the first such deal involving the evacuation of opposition fighters from eastern Ghouta, which has been under a ferocious government air and ground assault for a month.

In other parts of Syria, government forces have also pressed the rebels to enter into local cease-fire agreements under which the militants and their families would relocate to other parts of the country.

Monther Fares, a spokesman for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group, said the deal gives security guarantees for those who decide to stay in the town after the government takes over.

A day earlier, the Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said the planned evacuation of rebels is awaiting consensus among the militiamen in that area after an agreement was recently reached.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said as many as 140 families evacuated Harasta on Wednesday.

Eastern Ghouta lies within mortar range of central Damascus and the deal came after the deadliest rocket attack on the capital in months killed 44 civilians on Tuesday night.

Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge.

Hospital Director Mohammed Haitham al-Husseini told Al-Ikhbariya TV that 35 others were wounded in the mortar attack, with six in intensive care.

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But the most likely option was the transfer of Failaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam fighters to opposition-held areas in northern and southern Syria, a rebel official said.

The Syrian government has decried the silence of the worldwide community on the incessant terrorist attacks against civilian neighborhoods in Damascus, calling on the United Nations to expose the real goals behind the ongoing foreign-sponsored militancy against the Arab country.

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

On Friday, an air strike on a school in a rebel-held town outside Damascus killed 15 children and two women who were taking shelter in its basement.

The Syrian Civil Defence said that since the latest offensive started a month ago, it documented 1,252 civilians killed in more than 2,990 airstrikes and hundreds of other shellings.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday that while Syrian President Bashar Assad may fear punishment for civilian deaths in the country, the old slogan of "Assad must go" is no longer tenable.

Syrian and Russian forces have opened a third corridor in eastern Ghouta to allow civilians to leave Harasta, which is home to an estimated 20,000 people.

They have said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave but have agreed to evacuation deals to get hundreds of sick and wounded civilians out under United Nations auspices.

Beside Harasta, the rebels still hold two other pockets in the enclaveoutside Damascus - the major town of Douma and an area to the south that includes the towns of Jobar, Ein Terma and Arbin.