Syria news: 136 civilians killed as bombardment intensifies

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A man holds a child after an airstrike in the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh

At least 136 civilians have been killed in the last 48 hours as government forces from Russia and Syria conducted an intensified bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the capital Damascus.

Warplanes have bombed a number of towns in the region, causing buildings to collapse on residents. Among the casualties in the raids are at least 22 children and 21 women.

“Scenes of entire buildings, housing whole families crashing down with … women, children and men still inside have become a frequent image,” said Salem al-Shami, a resident and activist from Eastern Ghouta.

The deadliest attack came Tuesday, when government air strikes and artillery fire targeted 10 towns in the area, killing at least 80 people, including 19 children and 20 women, and injuring 160 others.

On Wednesday morning, the bombardment resumed, killing 10 people in the town of Beit Sawa, eight in Hamouriya, and five in Douma. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 34 people died in the area on Wednesday.

The attacks of the Russian-backed government forces on rebel-controlled areas have intensified since a Russian warplane was shot down over the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwest Syria. Rebel forces have claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane. Its pilot was reported to have died after exchanging fire with the rebels.

The rebel-controlled Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by the Syrian government forces for over four years. In May, the siege intensified as government forces conducted large-scale operations in the area.

It is estimated that 400,000 people are trapped in Eastern Ghouta, and its people suffer severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicines. There are also around 600 critically sick and wounded patients that need to be evacuated for treatment.

United Nations officials have called for an immediate cease-fire throughout Syria for at least one month in order to deliver humanitarian aid and services, as well as to evacuate the critically wounded.