Ghouta death toll soars above 220 as Syrian regime bombards rebel enclave
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Ghouta death toll soars above 220 as Syrian regime bombards rebel enclave

Another 75 killed in Damascus suburb on Thursday as UN appeal for ceasefire goes unheeded

A wounded man is helped out of the destruction following air strikes in the rebel-held enclave of Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus on February 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA)
A wounded man is helped out of the destruction following air strikes in the rebel-held enclave of Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus on February 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA)

ERBIN, Syria — Syrian regime jets continued to pound Eastern Ghouta Thursday, sending the death toll from a four-day assault on the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus soaring past 220.

The death toll mounted steadily throughout Thursday in Eastern Ghouta, which has been besieged since 2013, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tallying 75 civilians dead by the evening. Three died of wounds suffered on Wednesday.

“These are the worst four days that Eastern Ghouta has ever gone through,” said Hamza, an overwhelmed doctor at the Erbin clinic who was treating wounded patients.

“From 2011 until now, there has never been the level of bombardment we’ve seen in the last 96 hours.”

Syrian civlians flee from reported regime air strikes in the rebel-held town of Jisreen, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 8, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA)

The new toll brought to 228 the number of civilians killed since the regime launched a campaign Monday of heavy air raids on the area, which has an estimated 400,000 residents.

Among them were at least 58 children, the Observatory said.

The UN Security Council on Thursday failed to back a UN appeal for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.

“Children and teachers are terrified that at any moment they could be hit. The siege means there is nowhere for them to escape,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria response director.

Smoke plumes rising following a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held town of Arbin, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, February 7, 2018. (Amer ALMOHIBANY/AFP)

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

Moayad al-Hafi, a rescue worker, said his team was targeted as they retrieved bodies near Erbin.

“As we were pulling out the children and the dead from under the rubble, they targeted us with five rockets — directly targeting us,” said Hafi, 24.

At least two civilians were killed in retaliatory rebel mortar fire on government-controlled areas of Damascus, according to state news agency SANA.

AFP correspondents said mortars were raining down on Bab Touma on Thursday night.

A Syrian man searches for people in a fire following regime air strikes on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 7, 2018. (AFP / Hamza Al-Ajweh)

Eastern Ghouta was one of several so-called de-escalation zones agreed last year by three of the main outside players in the conflict — Turkey, Iran and Russia.

Ankara announced Thursday it would host a new three-way summit to revive efforts to end the war, which has killed at least 340,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.

Recent attempts to bring the conflict’s protagonists and brokers to the table have floundered, but the UN made a fresh call this week for conflicting sides to halt fighting.

The United States backed the plea but Russia — a longtime ally of Syria’s government — shrugged it off.

“That is not realistic,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters at the UN.

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