Syrian regime carnage in Eastern Ghouta the highest since 2013

250 civilians were reportedly killed in the last 48 hours.
Wednesday 21/02/2018
Smoke and dust are seen following a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, on February 21. (AFP)
Smoke and dust are seen following a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, on February 21. (AFP)

TUNIS - As many as 250 civilians were said to have been killed in a 48-hour period during a surge in pro-government air strikes on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian and Assad regime strikes on the suburb resumed after an overnight lull on the morning of February 21, killing five and injuring approximately 200 people during the first few hours.

The scale of the regime’s bombardment of eastern Ghouta experienced a dramatic uptick on February 18, with rockets and barrel bombs reportedly dropped on civilian neighbourhoods. Seven hospitals were said to have been hit. Two suspended operations and one was put out of commission.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the civilian death toll in a 48-hour period was the highest in Syria’s 7-year-long civil war.

Despite being declared a de-escalation zone in a Russia-brokered deal, the regime’s assault on the suburb has been unremitting. Last November, doctors in Eastern Ghouta, an area considered the “breadbasket of Damascus,” reported malnutrition, particularly among children, at unprecedented levels, Reuters reported.

The United States accused the Assad regime of using gas against civilians after reports from the White Helmets, an emergency relief organisation, said women and children suffocated after inhaling chlorine gas.

The surge in air strikes sparked international condemnation. France described the bombardment as a serious violation of international humanitarian law and US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “The Assad regime’s siege and starve tactics are… adding to the humanitarian disaster there.”

Nauert reaffirmed US support for United Nations’ calls for a month-long ceasefire to allow for the delivery of aid and emergency medical relief and called on Russia, one of Damascus’s principal backers, to exert whatever influence it had over the regime to halt the violence.

Amnesty International Syria Researcher Diana Semaan said: “The Syrian government, with the backing of Russia, is intentionally targeting its own people in Eastern Ghouta. 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 constitutes flagrant war crimes.”

Eastern Ghouta has been occupied by a variety of rebel groups since 2013. There are thought to be several rebel factions operating in the suburb, with Jaysh al-Islam the largest. Others, such as Faylaq al-Rahman and al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, are also said to be present.