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News > World

Syria: Nearly 368 People Killed in 5 Days, UN Calls for End to 'Monstrous Campaign of Annihilation'

  • Children are seen near rubble of damaged buildings in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, July 17, 2017.

    Children are seen near rubble of damaged buildings in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, July 17, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 February 2018

Russia has agreed that it would support a 30- day truce as requested by the U.N., barring the support for the Islamist militants it says the eastern Ghouta operation is meant to target. 

At least 13 persons were killed by airstrikes on Thursday in the neighborhood of Damascus as the conflict in the region continues to kill civilians for the fifth day.

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United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has called the attacks a "monstrous campaign of annihilation." 

Dozens of airstrikes and shelling have killed nearly 368 people, including 150 children in the attacks since Sunday night, according to the United Kingdom-based and opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Calling on the U.S. Security Council to declare a ceasefire, the U.N. Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura said, "There is a need for avoiding (a) massacre because we will be judged by history." 

“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” a doctor in eastern Ghouta told the Guardian. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate suspension for "all war activities" in the region, saying people are living "in hell on earth." 

 “A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is," said a doctor in the region.

“All these humanitarian and rights organizations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre," the doctor added.

The recent attacks have left over 1,850 people injured, with residential areas and several medical facilities damaged, making it harder to treat those suffering injuries.  

"The clinics department is out of service, the clinical care unit is out, the surgery unit is out, the incubator unit is out, the pediatric section is out, all of the departments of the hospital are completely out of service,” a man identified as a medical worker said, according to Cyprus Mail Online. 

“There were casualties among our staff, among patients, among the children we had,” he said, further adding that the doctors had to operate in the rubble as it was impossible to evacuate in time. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has criticised the U.S.-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria for entirely placing the blame on Damascus. 

Russia says it would support a 30- day truce as requested by the U.N., barring the support for the Islamist militants it says the eastern Ghouta operation is meant to target. 

Both Damascus and Moscow, however, have denied the use of barrel bombs or hitting civilians. According to reports, rebels use the civilians as human shields, the Cyprus Mail Online. 

"International humanitarian law was developed precisely to stop this type of situation, where civilians are slaughtered in droves in order to fulfill political or military objectives," UN's al-Hussein said in a statement. The UN chief said that many of the grave human rights violations and atrocities may amount to war crimes. 

"How much cruelty will it take before the international community can speak with one voice to say enough dead children, enough wrecked families, enough violence, and take resolute, concerted action to bring this monstrous campaign of annihilation to an end?" he said. 

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A report published by Save the Children, a non-profit working for children's rights, last week, pointed out nearly 350 million children are living in conflict zones, a 75 percent increase from the early 1990's, with Syria being one of the top three conflict-ridden regions affecting the children. 

"The conflict in Syria has set new lows in the conduct of hostilities," Caroline Anning, a Senior Conflict & Humanitarian Advocacy Adviser at Save the Children told Euronews, "We've seen huge rates of schools being attacked and the use of indiscriminate weapons like barrel and cluster bombs are being used in areas where children are living." 

In October, children from the besieged Ghouta region fled a kindergarten after an attack on the building.  

At the time, Yousef al-Bostani, an activist based in the besieged area of eastern Ghouta, told the Al Jazeera, that the civilians are losing hope in de-escalation talks. 

"The siege was never lifted and the sick, especially children, are dying from a lack of treatment and medicine," he said. "Unfortunately, people are losing hope in those talks, so in my opinion perhaps it is better to withdraw from the talks." 

"The prices of food, commodities, and medicine have skyrocketed," another activist based in eastern Ghouta, Mazen al-Shami, told the Al Jazeera.

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