[Injured children being treated at a hospital in opposition-held Douma, E. Ghouta, Syria, 19 February 2018. (EPAPhoto)]
Beirut: The death toll from two days of bombing by Syria’s regime of the Eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held area, has risen to 250 including more than 50 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, saying it is the worst violence in the area near Damascus since 2013.
Pro-Assad regime forces – backed by Russia – intensified their efforts to retake the last major opposition stronghold on Sunday night. The UK-based monitoring group said at least 250 people had been killed in air strikes and artillery fire since then.
The Observatory added that it was the highest 48-hour death toll since a 2013 chemical attack on the besieged enclave. About 1,200 people were injured. According to activists, at least 10 towns and villages across the Eastern Ghouta came under renewed bombardment on Tuesday.
The SOHR Chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the civilian death toll from Monday's bombardment of the enclave outside Damascus was the heaviest since early 2015.
The White Helmets, a group of local search and rescue volunteer workers in Syria, shared a video on their Twitter account of a man rescuing a baby from the wreckage caused by the raids.
The surge in the killing in the besieged region came amid reports of an impending regime incursion into the area outside Damascus, which is home to 400,000 civilians. More than 700 people have been killed in three months, according to local counts, not including the deaths in the last week.
Amnesty International said “flagrant war crimes” were being committed in eastern Ghouta on an “epic scale.”
Diana Semaan, the charity’s Syria researcher, said: “People have not only been suffering a cruel siege for the past six years, they are now trapped in a daily barrage of attacks that are deliberately killing and maiming them, and that constitute flagrant war crimes.”
Seven hospitals have also been bombed since Monday morning in eastern Ghouta, which was once the breadbasket of Damascus but has been under siege for years by the Assad government and subjected to devastating chemical attacks. Two hospitals suspended operations and one has been put out of service.
“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”
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