BEIRUT: Residents of Syria’s eastern Ghouta district said they were waiting their “turn to die” , amid one of the most intense bombardments of the war by pro-government forces on the besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.
At least 38 people died. At least 310 people have been killed in the district since and more than 1,550 injured, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.
The eastern Ghouta, a densely populated agricultural district on the Damascus outskirts, is the last major area near the capital still under rebel control. Home to 400,000 people, it has been besieged by government forces for years.
A massive escalation in bombardment, including rocket fire, shelling, air strikes and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs, since Sunday has become one of the deadliest of the Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year.
The Syrian government and its ally Russia, which has backed Assad with air power since 2015, say they do not target civilians and point to rebel mortar fire on Damascus.
“We are waiting our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say,” said Bilal Abu Salah, 22, whose wife is five months pregnant with their first child in the biggest eastern Ghouta town Douma. They fear the terror of the bombardment will bring her into labour early, he said.
Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said of the draft ceasefire resolution. “But we are working on (the draft).”
Moscow called for the UN Security Council to meet publicly to discuss the situation in Ghouta.
The pace of the strikes appeared to slow overnight, only to intensify again later on Wednesday, the Observatory said. Pro-government forces fired hundreds of rockets and dropped barrel bombs from helicopters on the district’s towns and villages.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for humanitarian access to Ghouta, especially to reach wounded people in critical need of treatment. “The fighting appears likely to cause much more suffering in the days and weeks ahead,” said Marianne Gasser, ICRC’s head of delegation in Syria. “This is madness and it has to stop.”
Medical charity Mdecins Sans Frontires said 13 hospitals had been hit and damaged or destroyed in the past three days.