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Syrian air strikes kill more than 30, including children

Rights groups say 33 people died, including 12 children, when military planes struck a hospital and school
A file photo of an air strike in Aleppo (AFP)

Syrian government air strikes on Thursday killed more than 30 people - including children - in a key rebel bastion east of the capital of Damascus.

The raids took place in Deir al-Assafir, a town in the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, one of the areas in Syria where a fragile ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia has been in place since 27 February.

The attack is one of the bloodiest since the ceasefire's inception.

In a report published by the Independent, the aerial bombardment struck a school and a hospital.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, reported that 33 people died in the attacks, including 12 children, updating its earlier toll of at least 23 fatalities.

While there have been occasional incidences of violence, some of them deadly, the ceasefire has largely been hailed as a success by the UN.

Syria’s government has said that al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State (IS) group – both of which have been excluded from the ceasefire – operate in the area where the air strikes took place.

In a strongly worded statement, the US expressed shock and outrage towards the air strikes.

"The United States is appalled by aerial strikes March 31, reportedly by the Assad regime, on a school and hospital in the Damascus suburb of Deir Al Asafir," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

"In joining the cessation of hostilities, even apart from its commitments to avoid attacking groups participating in the cessation of hostilities, the regime committed to full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which called for an immediate end to any attacks against civilians and for all parties to comply with their obligations under international law," Kirby said.

UN Resolution 2254, adopted by the UN Security Council in 2014, gives international aid agencies the right to access besieged areas in Syria without permission of the Syrian government, and the delegation has been asking for the international community to implement the resolution before any long-term peace talks begin.

The ceasefire in areas held by the government and rebels from the more moderate opposition has largely held since its inception in late February, in a boost to diplomatic efforts to end a five-year war that has killed more than 270,000 people.