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Assad's forces allegedly bomb market amid peace talks

A small number of U.S. special operations forces are being deployed to northern Syria to help fight ISIS
White House approves deployment of special operations forces to Syria 06:25

BEIRUT -- A barrage of missiles slammed into an overcrowded suburb of the Syrian capital, killing at least 45 people on Friday, activists said, as world powers convened in Vienna for talks on how to resolve the country's conflict.

John Kerry attempts to broker Syria ceasefire in Vienna talks 01:37

The attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma - the latest on this rebel-held area that has seen hundreds of people killed over the past few years - was a stark reminder of the enormous civilian suffering inside Syria while negotiations over President Bashar Assad's future take place abroad.

With 19 foreign ministers attending the meeting in Vienna, including those from regional powerbrokers Iran and Saudi Arabia, there was cautious hope that a small breakthrough would be achieved.

"I am hopeful that we can find a way forward," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters, adding: "It is very difficult."

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Later, Kerry announced the nations directed the U.N. to begin a new diplomatic process with Syria's government and opposition with the goal of reaching a nationwide cease-fire and political transition.

Kerry made the announcement at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Kerry made no declarations about Assad's future. Russia and Iran back Assad; the U.S. and its allies want him ousted. Kerry said the U.N.-led process should lead to a new constitution for Syria and internationally supervised elections.

Also Friday, the U.S. announced it would deploy a small number of special operations forces into Syria, expanding the United States' involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, there from the air to the ground.

Less than 50 troops would be based in Northern Syria, Obama administration sources told CBS News, to work with groups like Kurdish Peshmerga forces. While this puts boots on the ground, the U.S. does not consider this a combat deployment, the administration said.

There were conflicting reports about the attack in Douma. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees group said government forces fired more than 11 missiles at a market. The Observatory said the attack killed 57 people, while the LCC said at least 40 perished. The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

Syrian men try to identify the bodies of loved ones following a reported airstrike by Syrian government forces on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern edges of the capital Damascus, Oct. 30, 2015.
Syrian men try to identify the bodies of loved ones following a reported airstrike by Syrian government forces on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern edges of the capital Damascus, Oct. 30, 2015. Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images

Both organizations - and a third, Douma-based activist network - reported that dozens more were wounded in the mid-morning attack. The third group, the Douma Revolution network, listed the names of 45 people killed.

The Syrian National Council, the main Western-backed opposition group in exile, blamed Russian airstrikes for the "massacre" in Douma, saying 55 civilians were killed. It said it was the second deadly attack in the past 24 hours after Russian airstrikes bombed the main Douma hospital the previous day.

The sprawling suburb is a frequent target of deadly government airstrikes and barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. It is home to the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group, also known as Islam Army, which has claimed responsibility in the past for firing rockets on Damascus, the seat of Assad's presidency.

In August, airstrikes on Douma were said to have killed around 100 people, provoking sharp rebuke from U.N. and other officials.

Douma has been held by anti-Assad rebels since the early days of Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests but escalated into a full-scale civil war after a massive government crackdown. The conflict has claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced up to a third of Syria's pre-war population.

Amateur videos posted on the Internet showed gruesome images of bodies strewn among wreckage and young men sprawled on the ground of what appears to be a market. Pools of blood and flames could be seen as people cried for help.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people, including four children, were killed in airstrikes Friday on the northern city of Aleppo, activists said. It was not clear whether the strikes were Russian or from Syrian government aircraft.

Russia, a strong ally of Assad, began airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30, saying it is targeting mainly ISIS. Most of the Russian airstrikes, however, have centered on areas where ISIS does not have a strong presence.

In Moscow, the Russian general staff gave its rundown of facilities in Syria that Moscow claims to have destroyed in the past month of Russian airstrikes. The statement said 1,623 targets were hit, including militant training camps, command points and communication hubs, as well as workshops for preparing explosive devices.

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