Fresh shelling by Syrian government forces targeted the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta yesterday, as activists fear a ground assault targeting the area.
Shelling and airstrikes killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 200, activists and a monitor group said.
“TNT barrels were dropped on areas like Arbeen, Douma, Jisreene and Hammouriyeh,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The newly reported casualties raised the death toll to at least 300 since Sunday night, the watchdog said.
Activists inside Eastern Ghouta said more than 3,000 airstrikes fell on Eastern Ghouta in the past three days.
“Our morgues are full and our graves cannot take more bodies,” activist Abu Ahed said.
He added that activists have information that the government of President Bashar al-Assad are massing more forces around the enclave and that they are expecting a deadly ground assault “any time now.”
Eastern Ghouta has been the target of strikes by government forces for weeks now.
It is one of the last remaining areas under rebel control and has been under siege by al-Assad’s forces for more than four years.
A total of 400,000 people in the region have been largely cut off from humanitarian aid, and activists have warned that the situation is dire, with food and medical supplies running out.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for restraint and access to the wounded after the deadly escalation.
“The fighting appears likely to cause much more suffering in the days and weeks ahead, and our teams need to be allowed to enter Eastern Ghouta to aid the wounded,” said Marianne Gasser, ICRC’s delegation head in Syria.
It warned that medical personnel in Eastern Ghouta cannot cope with the high number of injuries and that medical supplies are running out.
“Wounded victims are dying only because they cannot be treated in time. In some areas of Ghouta, entire families have no safe place to go,” Gasser said.
The statement also said that people inside the capital Damascus, which witnessed rebel shelling in the past two days, are living in constant fear.
“This is madness and it has to stop. Civilians must not be targeted,” it added.
The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent accessed Eastern Ghouta in December to facilitate the evacuation of 29 wounded patients.
The ICRC’s last humanitarian aid delivery to Eastern Ghouta took place in November.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement that the shelling and bombing over Eastern Ghouta in the past three days has “hit, damaged and destroyed” 13 hospitals and clinics that are regularly or ad-hoc supported by MSF.
Lorena Bilbao, MSF Operations Co-ordinator for MSF programmes in Syria warned that the facilities they support have completely run out of supplies of blood bags, general anaesthetic drugs and intravenous antibiotics, which are critical for major surgery.
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