Syrian government bombardment kills 250, including 50 children
More than 250 people have reportedly died after two days of intense bombardment by the Syrian government on the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.
At least 50 children are believed to be among those killed in the shelling by forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad, which left as many as a 1,000 people injured.
The Syrian Civil Defence – also known as the White Helmets – said a further 10 people had been killed by government airstrikes on a targeted attack on Kafr Batna on Wednesday morning.
Opposition activists said government forces have brought in more reinforcements in recent days, suggesting a major assault is imminent to recapture the last main rebel stronghold near Damascus.
If captured by government forces it would be another major victory for Assad since the conflict began seven years ago.
The eastern Ghouta suburbs are home to some 400,000 people as well as thousands of insurgents belonging to different factions. The most powerful is the ultra conservative Army of Islam and Failaq al-Rahman, with a small presence of al-Qaida-linked fighters.
Videos showed paramedics pulling out the injured from the rubble while others are seen frantically digging through the debris in the dark in search of survivors.
Ahmad al-Dbis, an official at the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which runs hospitals and clinics in Syrian opposition areas, says 10 hospitals have been damaged by airstrikes or shelling in the last 48 hours.
“Yesterday we had more than a hundred martyrs. More than 600 wounded. Today, now we are in the midday, we have more than 80 martyrs,” a doctor at one of the hospitals told ITV News.
“From this morning, this early morning, continuous shelling, airstrikes is going on. So civilians in eastern Ghouta are frightened. It’s very hard life here, its a miserable life. We want the world to demonstrate credibility about human rights. We want the the world to stop this crime against civilians in eastern Ghouta.”
The government bombardment – backed by Russian forces – has involved warplanes, helicopter gunships and missiles as well as artillery in a major escalation of violence near Assad’s seat of power.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the deadliest days in eastern Ghouta since 2015.
The opposition-affiliated Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, said many victims are trapped under the rubble. (Agencies)