Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

Syrian rebel-held area suffers bloodiest week since 2015, death toll tops 220 in four-day regime assault

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Members of Syrian civil defence forces known as White Helmets evacuate a victim of an air strike in the rebel-held enclave of Hazeh in the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus on Thursday.

Reuters, Beirut  :
 The Syrian rebel-held area Eastern Ghouta of Damascus has suffered its bloodiest week since 2015 as a result of government bombardment, with 229 people killed in the last four days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.
"During the past four days 229 people were killed in Eastern Ghouta villages, including 58 children and 43 women," Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Britain-based war monitor, told Reuters.
AFP adds: Syrian regime jets have pounded Eastern Ghouta, sending the death toll from a four-day assault on the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus soaring past 220.
Violence also flared in eastern Syria on Thursday, where the US-led coalition said it had killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters to fend off an attack on its Kurdish allies.
The clash marked a fresh escalation between Washington, which has threatened the regime over its alleged use of chemical weapons, and Damascus, which labelled the latest incident in eastern Syria a "war crime".
Moscow also slammed the US-led strikes, with Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia saying he had lodged a protest about the assault during a closed-door Security Council meeting.
"To confront those who really fight international terrorism on the ground in Syria is criminal," he said.
The UN Security Council on Thursday failed to back a UN appeal for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.
In Eastern Ghouta, which lies east of the capital and has been besieged since 2013, residents had no time to mourn their dead or treat their wounded from the previous day's bombardment.
"These are the worst four days that Eastern Ghouta has ever gone through," said Hamza, an overwhelmed doctor at the Erbin clinic who was treating wounded patients.
"From 2011 until now, there has never been the level of bombardment we've seen in the last 96 hours."
The death toll mounted steadily throughout Thursday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights giving 75 civilians dead by the evening. Three died of wounds suffered on Wednesday.
That brought to 228 the number of civilians killed since the regime launched a campaign Monday of heavy air raids on the area, which has an estimated 400,000 residents.
Among them were at least 58 children, the Observatory said.
"Children and teachers are terrified that at any moment they could be hit. The siege means there is nowhere for them to escape," said Sonia Khush, Save the Children's Syria response director.
"There must be an immediate halt to the fighting and an end to the siege."
Moayad al-Hafi, a rescue worker, said his team was targeted as they retrieved bodies near Erbin.
"As we were pulling out the children and the dead from under the rubble, they targeted us with five rockets-directly targeting us," said Hafi, 24.
At least two civilians were killed in retaliatory rebel mortar fire on government-controlled areas of Damascus, according to state news agency SANA.
AFP correspondents said mortars were raining down on Bab Touma on Thursday night.
Eastern Ghouta was one of several so-called de-escalation zones agreed last year by three of the main outside players in the conflict-Turkey, Iran and Russia.

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