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World

AFP
February 9, 2018

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Syrian gov’t warplanes kill 59 in Eastern Ghouta

Syrian gov’t warplanes kill 59 in Eastern Ghouta

BEIRUT: Syrian government air strikes killed 59 civilians, including 15 children, and injured 139 others on Thursday, the fourth day of attacks against a rebel-held region, sending the death toll for the four-day assault on the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus soaring past 200.

Warplanes pounded various parts of eastern Ghouta, a besieged pocket of satellite towns and farms near the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army. The death toll rose after the bombing of a market in the village of Arbin, where air strikes killed 21, including nine children and three women, the monitor said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria expressed distress at the deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in the area. "Thousands are struggling to survive without aid, or a safe place from the line of fire" in eastern Ghouta, it said in a tweet. The Syrian government has repeatedly said it only targets militants.

In Damascus, shelling of the old city quarter by rebel factions in eastern Ghouta killed two civilians and damaged houses and properties. The United Nations called on Tuesday for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria of at least a month.

Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday dismissed as "unrealistic" a UN appeal for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, where four days of government raids have killed scores of civilians.

"That is not realistic," Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters. "We would like to see a ceasefire, the end of the war, but the terrorists, I am not sure, are in agreement," he said.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria as the death toll from a four-day assault on Eastern Ghouta soared past 200. Sweden and Kuwait requested the talks after the UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panous Moumtzis, called for the month-long ceasefire in order to reach civilians in need.

Russia has repeatedly blocked action in the council that would target its Syrian ally. French Ambassador Francois Delattre called for a strong response from the council, appealing for an immediate ceasefire and unhindered access for aid agencies.

"Eastern Ghouta is experiencing a Middle Ages-style siege. That is totally unacceptable," Delattre told reporters. "In Syria, we are now back to the darkest period of this conflict, with the highest death toll among civilians over the last year," he deplored.

The United States demanded an end to the air strikes, with the State Department saying in Washington: "These attacks must end now." UN aid officials accuse the Syrian government of blocking all aid convoys to besieged areas in January.

More than 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, including 6.1 million who have been displaced within the country during the nearly seven-year war.

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