Syria warring sides urged to stop targeting civilians
November 20 2017 01:05 AM


The United Nations yesterday called on Syria’s warring sides to stop targeting civilians in the capital Damascus and nearby neighbourhoods, where escalating bombardment has killed dozens in recent days.
Rebel groups and regime forces are locked in a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks around Damascus and in the opposition-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
Yesterday, UN co-ordinator for humanitarian and development affairs in Syria Ali al-Zaatari called on “all warring sides to avoid targeting civilians”.
“For days, there have been daily reports about civilians being killed and others being severely wounded, in addition to warehouses, hospitals and schools being put out of service during the exchange of shellfire, particularly in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta,” Zaatari said.
His comments in Arabic came in a statement e-mailed to AFP.
Government forces have escalated their bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, an opposition stronghold outside Damascus, since rebel group Ahrar al-Sham attacked a military base in the area last week.
Since Tuesday, heavy artillery fire and air strikes on Eastern Ghouta have killed at least 66 civilians including 13 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least 281 people have been wounded, the Britain-based monitor said on Sunday.
Rebel groups meanwhile have fired rockets into Damascus neighbourhoods, killing at least 16 people since Thursday, the Observatory said.
The toll included two people killed by rocket fire on Sunday.
“The United Nations hopes for an immediate ceasefire and the establishment of secure humanitarian corridors to evacuate wounded, sick, and elderly people, as well as children, as soon as possible from areas seeing hostile operations,” Zaatari said.
He called for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those who need it across the country. Eastern Ghouta is supposed to be part of a “de-escalation zone” under a deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey aimed at reducing the level of violence.
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have besieged Eastern Ghouta since 2013, making humanitarian conditions in the area, where some 400,000 people live, extremely dire.

Syrian regime forces gather near the village of Sawwan, south of Khanasser, in the Aleppo governorate yesterday, as they prepare to advance towards rebel-held positions.

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