Syrian child footballer 'killed by rebel shelling' on Damascus

Syrian child footballer 'killed by rebel shelling' on Damascus
A 12-year-old Syrian footballer was killed when rockets hit a training ground in the capital's Mazraa neighbourhood, according to state media.
2 min read
24 March, 2018
The Mazraa area also hosts the Russian embassy [File Photo: Getty]
A young Syrian footballer and seven others were wounded after rockets fired by rebels hit the club on the outskirts of Damascus, state media said on Saturday. 

Twelve-year-old Samir Mohamad Massoud was training along with his teammates when the rockets hit a sports club in the capital's Mazraa neighbourhood, said Mohsen Abbas, who coaches the youth league of the Syrian army's football team.

"They hit the al-Fayhaa sports centre with a shell, which took the life of a child and wounded seven others as they were training," said Abbas. 

Al-Fayhaa is the capital's most well-known gym and the country's national teams train there.

It has been hit several times by rebels based on the outskirts of the capital, in their dwindling Eastern Ghouta enclave. The area also hosts the Russian embassy, a key ally of the Syrian regime.

The latest strike on Damascus came despite rebels clearing out of several holdouts around Ghouta under evacuation deals.

Faylaq al-Rahman, the rebel group that controls the area, agreed to pull out in exchange for an end to nearly five weeks of devastating bombardment by the government and its allies.

Dozens of fighters, their relatives, and other residents waited out in the open in the bombed-out streets of Arbin, one of the towns included in the deal.

It was the first time in weeks that so many people were seen outside. Relentless shelling and airstrikes had made it too dangerous to venture out of basement shelters, even to find food.

Eastern Ghouta was once the opposition's main bastion on the outskirts of Damascus, but the government has recaptured more than 90 percent of it through a mixture of military pressure and evacuation deals.

The agreement with Faylaq came after a similar deal with the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group, which saw the Ghouta town of Harasta emptied of rebel fighters on Thursday and Friday.

More than 4,500 people, including over 1,400 fighters, left for Idlib, state television reported.

Talks are under way over the fate of the last rebel-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta around its main town of Douma, which is controlled by the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.

Agencies contributed to this report.