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UN: Warring Sides Should Stop Targeting Civilians in Damascus, Eastern Ghouta

UN: Warring Sides Should Stop Targeting Civilians in Damascus, Eastern Ghouta

Monday, 20 November, 2017 - 10:15
File photo: A Syrian child looks out onto a damaged building following an air strike on the rebel-held town of Arbin in eastern Ghouta. AFP

The United Nations on Sunday called on Syria's warring sides to stop targeting civilians in the capital Damascus and nearby neighborhoods, mainly Eastern Ghouta, where escalating bombardment has killed dozens in recent days.

UN coordinator 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 emailed to AFP.

Regime forces have escalated their bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, an opposition stronghold outside Damascus, since 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 neighborhoods, 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.

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.

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