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Eastern Ghouta: Aid groups make desperate pleas for action

Syrian regime bombardment of Eastern Ghouta has left more than 250 dead [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 February, 2018

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NGOs and human rights groups are demanding action as the Syrian regime's relentless bombardment of Eastern Ghouta leaves hundreds dead and hospitals overflowing with blood and injured.
As regime bombs continue to pound Syria's Eastern Ghouta, aid groups are running out of words to mobilise the world into action.

The UN's children's agency UNICEF on Tuesday issued a blank statement in response to the killings.

"No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones," the release from UNICEF's regional director Geert Cappalaere began.

There followed 10 empty lines with quote marks indicating missing text, and an explanatory footnote.

"UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children's suffering and our outrage," it said.

"Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?"

While UNICEF was angered into silence, other aid groups continued desperate pleas for an end to the bombardment, which has reached unprecedented levels in the past two days.

More than 250 civilians have died in that period, with hospitals - also targeted by bombs - overwhelmed, floors overflowing with injured and blood.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said the situation is "horrific, unacceptable and appalling".

According to its Twitter, the frontline organisation said it has lost three medical workers in 48 hours due to aerial bombardments, bringing the total to eight SAMS staff killed this year.

Twelve medical facilities have been targeted in the past two days, the relief group said in a statement, four of which have been completely destroyed, while two are temporarily out of service.

"The level of brutality in East Ghouta is unsurpassed in this conflict," said SAMS President, Dr Ahmad Tarakji.

"The same international community which expressed outrage and horror at the bombardment of Aleppo is watching it happen all over again."

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the tragedy unfolding is "horrific" and called for international humanitarian law to be respected.

"Otherwise, as we see, chaos and brutality reign and it is ordinary women, men and children who pay the price," he tweeted.

Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth said laid blame with Bashar al-Assad's backers, Russia.

"As Assad locks in the civilians of Eastern Ghouta and then pummels them and even their hospitals, let's not pretend this is just a war. It's a massacre. And Putin makes it possible," he said on Twitter.

Amnesty International has demanded seriously ill civilians, who have been trapped and deprived of medical care for months, to be evacuated from the area immediately.

Aid agency CARE said the "extreme escalation in violence" has made it "impossible" for humanitarian workers to reach civilians, who are deprived of food and medicine and are facing hunger and death.

"If a ceasefire is not reached now, we will be facing a humanitarian catastrophe," said Wouter Schaap, CARE's country director for Syria.

Panos Moumtzis, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said the situation was "spiralling out of control".

Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad is keen to retake it, seemingly at any cost.

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