In the deadliest day Syrians have seen in three years, government forces backing President Bashar Al-Assad killed more than 100 people in bombings of Damascus’ rebel-held suburbs on Monday, eliciting outrage and fresh warnings about the unraveling humanitarian crisis from aid agencies that monitor the country’s nearly eight-year war.
“Much of the carnage that has ravaged Syria during the past seven years is due to the actions of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.”
—Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University
The bombing campaign continued Tuesday after about 130 civilians, including more than 30 women and children, were killed in the air raids, rocket strikes, and shelling conducted by pro-Assad forces in Eastern Ghouta on Monday, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Since Sunday, an “extreme escalation in hostilities,” as the U.N. described it, has killed at least 190 people and injured 850.
“The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” warned Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional coordinator for the crisis. “Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, released a statement Tuesday from regional director Geert Cappelaere that said only, “No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers, and their loved ones,” followed by several empty quotation marks.
An explanatory footnote stated: “UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage.”
Amid the increased violence, there are mounting concerns about aid groups’ struggles to provide essential food and medical care to the region’s civilians.
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The France-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations noted that since the weekend, all five hospitals in the area have been “bombed and put out of service.”
“This could be one of the worst attacks in Syrian history, even worse than the siege on Aleppo,” observed Zedoun Al Zoebi, the group’s CEO. “The sheer intensity of airstrikes is leveling the city, and killing civilians without any regard or mercy. Medicine and medical supplies have not been allowed into the city for months now, and there is virtually no medical care available for these people as they suffer severe trauma wounds.”
“The level of destruction and human suffering we’re witnessing in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta is unprecedented and catastrophic,” David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told CBS News earlier this month. “Aerial bombardment and artillery attacks are claiming the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Shortages of food, water, medicine, and other items have driven people to the brink of endurance.”
Outrage from aid groups over recent escalations in violence and the human cost has come with observations from experts about what’s fueling the conflict, which began in March 2011.
“Much of the carnage that has ravaged Syria during the past seven years is due to the actions of the United States and its allies in the Middle East,” Jeffrey Sachs wrote last week for Project Syndicate, pointing to airstrikes by U.S. forces earlier this month.
“America’s official narrative has sought to conceal the scale and calamitous consequences of U.S. efforts to overthrow” Assad, Sachs added. “Now, faced with an alarming risk of a renewed escalation of fighting, it’s time for the United Nations Security Council to step in to end the bloodshed.”
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