UN condemns mounting civilian deaths in E Ghouta


GENEVA/ANKARA: United Nation’s top human rights official condemned on Wednesday a recent escalation in airstrikes and ground attacks by regime forces and their allies which killed almost 100 people within the past 10 days in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.

“Since 31 December, at least 85 civilians, including 21 women and 30 children, have been killed and at least 183 injured in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, according to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office,” UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, said in a statement.

“At least two medical facilities were hit by airstrikes during this period, killing one medical worker and putting one facility out of action,” he added.

Al-Hussein said efforts to evacuate urgent medical cases from Eastern Ghouta were failing, reminding the regime of its obligations under the international humanitarian law.

He also expressed “grave concern” about the situation of an estimated two million people in Idlib, which saw an increase in the clashes.

Both Syria’s Eastern Ghouta and Idlib have been considered de-escalation areas brokered in May 2017 under the Astana process by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with the aim to put an end to violence and improve the humanitarian situation.

White Helmets statement

A total of 40 people were killed over the past two days as Assad forces intensified their attacks on the besieged Damascus suburb Eastern Ghouta, according to the White Helmets civil defence agency.

In a statement, 161 civilians also lost their lives over the last two weeks, the agency said.

Home to some 400,000 inhabitants, Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has remained under a crippling siege by the Bashar Assad regime since late 2012.

It falls within a network of de-escalation zones – endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran – in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.