Death toll rises from Syrian airstrikes on civilians near Damascus

LONDON -- At least 70 civilians, including 18 children, have died in a series of airstrikes targeting one of the largest rebel-held territories in Syria near Damascus, activists say.

Everyone knows what's coming when they hear Russian and Syrian warplanes overhead, signaling another strike. Then, there's a frantic sprint to reach the wounded and rush them to safety.

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Syrian civil defence volunteers and other civilians attempt to remove rubble from the site of a collapsed building to rescue victims following reported regime air strikes in the rebel-held town of Arbin, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)

Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP/Getty Images

Medical help is basic. The local clinics are makeshift and ill-equipped. After seven years of war, Damascus's shattered Eastern suburbs are one of the few anti-Assad strongholds left. Rebel fighters control those neighborhoods, but civilians still live there, becoming sitting ducks for Syrian army shells and missiles.

"What have we done to deserve this?" one man wailed right after a strike. "Take your fight to the battlefield. We've had enough."

But even when we last visited the area in 2013, it was a battlefield. Now it's under siege, and intensive attack. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there have been 35 airstrikes there in the past 24 hours alone.

That's what videos appear to show. We can't independently verify them, but they were filmed by the White Helmets, the famous rescue service. They say that among the dead today, with numbers still rising, are at least nine children.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."