Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Death toll reaches 220 in regime assault on Syrian rebels

Death toll reaches 220 in regime assault on Syrian rebels

He said "to confront those who really fight the worldwide terrorists on the ground, on the Syrian side, is criminal".

The UN Security Council is to hold a closed-door meeting Thursday to discuss an appeal for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, diplomats said.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have pummeled rebel-held Eastern Ghouta with relentless shelling and airstrikes this week, in defiance of worldwide human rights laws. The Syrian American Medical Society said its hospitals in Idlib treated 11 patients for suspected chlorine gas poisoning. And we would like to see that stopped.

The death toll has risen from an initial report of 16 to around 70, including 18 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Three died of wounds suffered on Wednesday. The highest toll was in the town of Jisreen, where eight civilians were killed.

"Scenes of entire buildings, housing whole families crashing down with ... women, children and men still inside have become a frequent image", said Salem al-Shami, a resident and activist from Eastern Ghouta.

"Children and teachers are terrified that at any moment they could be hit. They are fast running out of places to go", said Sonia Khush, the organization's Syria response director.

"There must be an immediate halt to the fighting and an end to the siege".

Siraj Mahmoud of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said 58 people were killed in the shelling and airstrikes.

Eastern Ghouta, an area controlled by various Islamic rebel groups, was supposed to be a "de-escalation zone", according to a peace agreement struck by Russia, Turkey and Iran in May.

According to United Nations estimates, 13.1 million people require humanitarian assistance in Syria, including almost 3 million people in hard-to-reach areas. A stronghold of Islamic State militants until late previous year, the province also was the group's main source of oil revenue.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters a humanitarian ceasefire is "not realistic" because "the terrorists" are keeping up attacks, although Moscow would like one.

In 2013, the US and Russia, Assad's strongest ally, struck an agreement that sought to disarm Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons, which eventually led to the disposal of around 1,200 tons of chemical stockpile. "If we move out of our bombed house, we will be bombed in someone else's".

"At the end of our effort to defend ourselves, their artillery was knocked out, two of their tanks were knocked out, they had casualties".

The World Food Programme, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, reiterated the call for a cessation of hostilities to enable aid deliveries, but also noted that the Syrian government was not giving necessary permits to delivery aid.

While Syrian President Bashar al- Assad has vehemently denied any use of chemical weapons, saying their forces only target militants, United Nations investigations have said that the regime has previously conducted chemical attacks.

In an email Thursday to The Associated Press, Col. Thomas F. Veale said the coalition reported to the Russians the buildup of the pro-government forces in the area before the attack, and communicated with them during and after it.

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