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UN says Syrian forces killed 85 civilians in besieged zone

By Reuters - Jan 10,2018 - Last updated at Jan 10,2018

A volunteer from the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) carries a wounded girl after digging her out of the rubble following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

GENEVA — Syrian government forces and their allies have killed at least 85 civilians since December 31 in stepped-up attacks against the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the UN human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Conditions in the enclave, the last major rebel-held zone near Damascus and where at least 390,000 civilians have been besieged for four years, amount to a humanitarian catastrophe, HH Prince Zeid said.

"Residential areas are being hit day and night by strikes from the ground and from the air, forcing civilians to hide in basements," he said in a statement.

Prince Zeid said warring parties were obliged by law to distinguish between civilians and lawful military targets, and reports from Eastern Ghouta suggested of the attackers were flouting those principles, "raising concerns that war crimes may have been committed".

 Among the dead civilians were 21 women and 30 children, Prince Zeid said.

Backed by Russian strikes, Syrian government forces have escalated military operations against Eastern Ghouta in recent months. Russia rejects accusations that its jets have been targeting civilians.

Prince Zeid said failure to evacuate urgent medical cases from the enclave was also against international humanitarian law.

Armed opposition groups holed up in Eastern Ghouta had also continued to fire rockets into residential areas of Damascus, which he said caused terror among the population.

 

A rocket landed near a bakery in Old Damascus on January 4, killing a woman and injuring 13 other civilians, he said. 

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