DOUMA: Heavy air strikes and clashes shook the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, as France and Britain called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the escalating violence.
Eight hundred civilians — including at least 177 children — have been killed since Russia-backed regime forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave outside Damascus on Feb 18, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in its latest death toll.
Bombardment and clashes in Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus have persisted despite a month-long ceasefire demanded by the Security Council more than a week ago.
At least 19 civilians were killed on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory, a Britain-based monitor.
The relentless attacks prompted France and Britain to request an emergency meeting of the top UN body, expected to gather on Wednesday, to discuss the ceasefire’s failure to take hold.
Government troops have advanced rapidly across farmland in Eastern Ghouta in the past week and had wrested control of 40 percent of the enclave as of early Tuesday.
In the enclave’s main town of Douma, air strikes have reduced homes to piles of rubble on both sides of the road.
Exhausted civil defence workers on Tuesday took advantage of a few hours of calm to dislodge the body of a resident, killed in bombardment several days ago, from a collapsed building.
Rebels fire mortars
Other civilians used the lull in air strikes to venture out from cellars to gather a few necessities from what was left of their homes.
Some gathered the pieces of furniture smashed in the raids to use as fuel or sell to their neighbours.
In Hammuriyeh, air strikes were continuing to pummel the town on Tuesday.
The raids came after around 18 people suffered breathing difficulties in the town following a strike there late Monday, the Observatory reported.
It had no firm word on the cause.
Eastern Ghouta’s around 400,000 residents have lived under government siege since 2013, facing severe shortages of food and medicines even before the latest offensive began.
Forty-six aid trucks entered Eastern Ghouta on Monday for the first time since the offensive started, but had to cut short their deliveries and leave due to heavy bombardment.
The UN Human Rights Council on Monday ordered investigators to examine the latest violence in the enclave.