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White Helmets: Eastern Ghouta death toll at 674

March 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Syrian try to warm themselves with a heating stove in a shelter in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus, Syria on 27 February 2018 [Anas Aldamashqi/Anadolu Agency]

Some 674 people have been killed by the Syrian regime in the province of eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Civil Defence Unit, the White Helmets.

As of this morning, some 2,708 people were also injured in the past 12 days of perpetual bombing, including 540 women and 658 children. Civilians have been forced to hide in cellars for days, with a higher death toll observed among men who risk the constant air strikes to secure food for their families.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that government forces of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad launched a ground offensive on the besieged enclave on Wednesday, after reports that the regime had been sending reinforcements to the area since the start of last month. Whilst rebels initially inflicted heavy losses on regime forces, government troops have reportedly pushed into several villages in the east of the province.

On Saturday, the UN Security council voted unanimously in favour of a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, as rescuers in Ghouta said a week of perpetual bombing had not let up long enough for them to count bodies during one of the bloodiest air assaults of the seven-year war. Shortly after the vote, warplanes struck another town in the province.

Air strikes have continued to take place across the suburb, despite Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s announcement of a daily five-hour ceasefire to be implemented in the enclave to allow a safe route for the wounded to be evacuated and civilians to escape.

Read: Eastern Ghouta residents refuse to leave their land

Yesterday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert called the Russian proposal for a five-hour ceasefire “a joke”, condemning the continued bombardment in violation of the UN decision.

“What needs to happen instead is a nationwide ceasefire that was voted upon unanimously at the United Nations last Saturday,” Nauert told reporters at a press briefing. “Fifteen countries supported it, let me remind you. So did Russia.”

Earlier today, Geert Cappalaere, Middle East director of the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, said in a statement that the Syrian government may agree to allow an aid convoy with supplies for 180,000 people into the town of Douma on Sunday, although there was no sign of an agreement on further convoys to aid the rest of the district’s 400,000 people.

Eastern Ghouta is one of four de-escalation zones established last May by Russia, Iran and Turkey in order to stem the bloodshed of Syria’s six-year civil war. However, the region has experienced near constant bombardment for many months, with aid provision restricted, leaving 400,000 civilians struggling to survive.

Read: OPCW to investigate chemical attacks in Syria’s eastern Ghouta