Deaths mount in Syria bombing campaign near Damascus
Beirut – Syrian government warplanes carried out a sixth day of airstrikes Friday in the rebel-held suburbs east of Damascus, killing 32 people, activists said, as the death toll from a week of bombardment soared over 400.
At the United Nations, a vote on a Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire across Syria was delayed until Saturday to try to close a gap over the timing of a halt to fighting.
The new bombings came a day after Syrian army helicopters dropped leaflets over the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ghouta, urging residents of those suburbs to leave for their own safety and calling on opposition fighters to surrender because they were surrounded by government troops.
Opposition activists reported airstrikes and artillery shelling on a string of towns on the edge of Damascus or eastern Ghouta.
At least 32 people were killed in raids on areas including Hammouriyeh, Zamalka, Douma and al-Marj, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the civil war through a network of activists in Syria.
The Ghouta Media Center, an activist collective, also reported 32 killed, saying the victims included 13 people in the Damascus suburb of Douma, five in Ein Tarma and five in Shiefouniyeh.
Syrian state TV reported that insurgents fired 70 shells on Damascus, killing one person and wounding 60 others. It said one of the shells hit a hospital, damaging its intensive care unit as well as cars parked nearby.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense rescue group reported new airstrikes in Douma, Arbeen and other towns east of Damascus.
At the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Russia, Iran and the Syrian government for the recent violence in Syria, calling it a “humanitarian disgrace.” His comments came at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called again for an urgent cease-fire to relieve the “appalling suffering” of civilians in eastern Ghouta by stopping the bombing there and the “indiscriminate” shelling of Damascus. He said the cease-fire must be followed by an “immediate, unhindered humanitarian access to eastern Ghouta and evacuation of sick and injured.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also had urged an immediate suspension of “all war activities” in eastern Ghouta, saying 400,000 people are living “in hell on Earth.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has called an immediate cease-fire unrealistic and proposed an amendment to delay it.