Saqba: Fresh regime strikes on a besieged rebel-held enclave near Damascus killed 35 civilians despite mounting Western pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The bloodshed came a day after another 31 civilians were killed in Eastern Ghouta and as the United Nations pleaded for a truce in the seven-year-old conflict to allow for aid deliveries.
Fighting also raged in the northwestern province of Idlib, where the UN said the violence “made a mockery” of the de-escalation zones agreed last year in a bid to pave the way for an end to the war.
The latest casualties in Ghouta, on paper also a de-escalation zone, came as Washington threatened military action over the reported use of chemical weapons in the enclave, which regime and allied forces have besieged since 2013.
The death toll rose from an initial report of 16 “because the strikes are continuing — some new victims died in Douma and some critically wounded people died of their wounds,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman added that few rebels were among the dead because they rarely left their tunnels and had better protection from air strikes than civilians, estimated to number around 400,000 in Ghouta.
In apparent retaliation, rockets were fired on Damascus’s Bab al-Touma neighbourhood, killing three civilians, the state news agency SANA reported.
Although less deadly, regime attacks involving suspected chlorine-filled munitions on Ghouta have also been on the up in recent weeks.
The US State Department said on Monday it had recorded six suspected chemical attacks in Syria in the past 30 days. Washington, which last year launched cruise missiles on a regime airfield in retaliation for a nerve agent attack in Khan Sheikhun that killed scores of people, has threatened more military action.
France last month blacklisted companies and nationals it said had links to Syria’s alleged chemical programme.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley clashed with her Russian counterpart at a meeting of the Security Council on Monday after proposing a statement condemning Damascus “in the strongest terms”.
Russia, Assad’s main backer, retorted that “no perpetrators have been identified” and accused the US.