DOUMA, Syria – There was no end in sight on Friday to the heavy bombing campaign on a rebel-held enclave outside the Syrian capital that has left hundreds dead over the course of the week following a decision by Russia to stall a 30-day ceasefire resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
Throughout the week, more than 400 people have been killed in relentless government airstrikes and shellings that have battered the region of Eastern Ghouta, a besieged network of towns and satellite cities on the outskirts of Damascus, while over 2,000 others have been injured in the carnage, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a British war monitor.
At an emergency UN security council meeting on Thursday evening, a draft resolution from Sweden and Kuwait calling for a 30-day cessation in hostilities in Syria and the facilitation of humanitarian aid in Eastern Ghouta met resistance from Russia, whose envoy Vassily Nebenzia said a more “feasible” measure was needed.
He said Russia would circulate a list of amendments, and accused the international media of pushing disinformation about Eastern Ghouta in a bid to smear the Syrian government and its Russian allies, who he insisted were targeting legitimate terrorist targets in the region, including groups linked to al-Qaida.
Western diplomats were left frustrated as once again Russia looked certain to wield its veto power to shoot down a resolution on Syria.
Russia, which called Thursday’s session, is the main international backer of Bashar al-Assad’s government, and its firepower has helped the regime recover huge swathes of land once in the hands of armed opposition forces.
Sweden’s ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog, urged for immediate action to end hostilities and said that the situation in Eastern Ghouta had never been worse.
Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the United States State Department, said Russia was to blame for the violence in the enclave.
As dignitaries sat down in New York, an epa photographer based in Douma, one of the main population hubs in the region, documented desperate search-and-rescue efforts as members of the voluntary Syria Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets, combed through destroyed residential buildings for survivors in the wake of fresh bombardments.
At least 80 people, including babies and children, were killed in Thursday’s raids.
The Syrian government and its allies have insisted that they are only targeting objectives belonging to the main rebel group in the region, Jaysh al-Islam (“Army of Islam”), but harrowing epa images from one of the few basement hospitals that remain in the region show that civilians have lost their lives in great numbers.