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Syria's Eastern Ghouta: Five deadly days of bombing

The new round of strikes by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 360 civilians and wounded 1,700 others since Sunday.

Published: 22nd February 2018 07:43 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd February 2018 07:43 PM   |  A+A-

Smoke rises from inside Syria (File | AP)

By AFP

BEIRUT: Syria's army launched a new deadly aerial campaign on Damascus's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region on February 18, with daily bombardments since then turning it into "hell on Earth".

The enclave, controlled by Islamists and besieged by government forces for five years, was already subjected to a ferocious five-day air assault this month that left around 250 civilians dead and hundreds wounded.

The new round of strikes by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 360 civilians and wounded 1,700 others since Sunday.

Here is a day-by-day breakdown:

- Rockets and intense raids -
On February 18 government forces fire more than 260 rockets and the air force carries out intense raids on several areas in Eastern Ghouta.

The army reinforces its positions in what seems to be preparation for a ground offensive, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights observer group says. 

- Death and desolation -
On February 19 Syrian regime forces again pound Eastern Ghouta, killing 127 civilians in the highest death toll over a single day in the rebel enclave since 2013.

The UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, says the targeting of civilians "must stop now."

"The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiralling out of control," he says. "It is imperative to end this senseless human suffering now."

- 'No words will do justice' -
On February 20 Russian air strikes target Eastern Ghouta for the first time in three months, reportedly hitting the key regional Arbin hospital and putting it out of service. 

Six other hospitals are also hit in the bombardments over a 48-hour period, putting three out of service, according to the United Nations.

The hundreds of injured flock to makeshift hospitals where the beds run short and patients are treated on the floor.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian worries about a "humanitarian cataclysm" and the US State Department condemns "siege and starve tactics".

The UN's children's fund UNICEF also weighs in: "No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones."

- 'Hell on Earth' -
On February 21 the raids target several areas, namely Hammuriyeh and Kafr Batna. Planes also drop barrel bombs -- crude, improvised munitions that usually cause indiscriminate damage and are condemned by the UN. 

Several residential buildings are destroyed, according to an AFP correspondent in Hammuriyeh. Civilians dig trenches under their homes to shelter themselves. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross asks for access.

"The fighting appears likely to cause much more suffering in the days and weeks ahead, and our teams need to be allowed to enter Eastern Ghouta to aid the wounded," it says.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls for an immediate halt in the fighting and says the region has become "hell on Earth."

The Kremlin denies any involvement in the air strikes.

French President Emmanuel Macron calls for a truce and accuses the regime of using the fight against terrorism as a "pretext" to attack civilians.

On February 22, with the siege entering its fifth day, the chaos deepens as the Syrian regime rains rockets and bombs on the enclave, killing at least 19 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls for an end to the "massacre" and slams the regime for targeting "its own people." 

"The killing of children, the destruction of hospitals -- all that amounts to a massacre that must be condemned and which must be countered with a clear no," she says.



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