CAIRO – At least 35 civilians, including 12 children, died in attacks staged on Sunday by the Syrian regime and its allies on the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, the bombardment of the enclave – including the firing of missiles – by the regime of Bashar al-Assad has resulted in a “massacre” in the city of Douma and its surroundings.
The NGO’s complaints came a few hours after Assad said on state-run television that the operation “against terrorists” in Eastern Ghouta “will continue” simultaneously with the opening of safe corridors for trapped civilians to exit the zone.
The United States, Britain and France have all increased pressure on Damascus – and on its backer, Moscow – to end the assault on the rebel enclave.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has announced that it intends to ship desperately needed humanitarian aid into Eastern Ghouta to help the local populace.
Last week, Russia announced daily five-hour “humanitarian pauses” between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm in the zone and curtailed the campaign of aerial bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, although reports are that fighting has intensified on the ground.
The Observatory said that warplanes launched 12 attacks against different parts of the towns of Douma and Hamuriya, while regime helicopters dropped barrel-bombs, despite international complaints lodged regarding their use.
Troops loyal to Assad also launched mortar attacks against other areas.
The NGO said that at least 27 bodies were pulled from the rubble of buildings destroyed in the “intense attacks” in Douma, and in a statement the organization raised the civilian death toll to 695, including 166 children and 98 women, since the offensive against Eastern Ghouta was launched on Feb. 18.
The UN has said that some 400,000 civilians are trapped in the zone under attack.
The NGO, meanwhile, said that more than 25 percent of the region is controlled by forces loyal to Assad.