Pro-government forces pounded the rebel-held district of eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, in a surge of violence that a war monitor said had killed at least 250 people since Sunday night, Reuters reports.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the highest 48-hour death toll in the Syria conflict since a 2013 chemical attack on eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel bastion located near the capital.
The wave of air strikes, rocket fire and shelling has sparked international condemnation. France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, described the bombardment as a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military. Damascus says it only targets militants.
Recent violence in the besieged suburb is part of a wider surge in fighting on several fronts as President Bashar al-Assad’s military pushes to end the seven-year rebellion against him.
The Observatory said the bombardment had killed more than 106 adults and children in eastern Ghouta on Tuesday alone.
Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Syria, on Tuesday condemned the bombing of five hospitals in eastern Ghouta and said intentional attacks on medical facilities “may amount to war crimes”.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was “deeply concerned” by the rising violence in Ghouta. “The Assad regime’s siege and starve tactics are … adding to the humanitarian disaster there,” she said.
Nauert said the United States supported a UN call for a month-long cessation of hostilities to allow for the delivery of aid and an emergency medical evacuation of civilians. She urged Russia to stop supporting the Assad government.
Rescuers said the air raids created “a state of terror” among residents in eastern Ghouta, where the UN says nearly 400,000 people live. The pocket of satellite towns and farms has been under government siege since 2013.
Factions in Ghouta fired mortars at Damascus on Tuesday, killing six people and injuring 28, Syrian state TV said. The army retaliated and pounded militant targets, according to the state news agency SANA.
The Syrian foreign ministry accused militants in Ghouta of targeting Damascus and using people as “human shields”. It said in a letter of complaint to the UN that some Western officials were denying the government’s right to defend itself.
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