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98 Dead in Assault on Damascus Suburb  02/20 06:08

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Intense Syrian government shelling and airstrikes of 
rebel-held Damascus suburbs killed at least 98 people in what was the deadliest 
day in the area in three years, a monitoring group and paramedics said Tuesday.

   A day after Monday's government barrage, retaliatory shells rained down on 
the capital Damascus, killing at least one person on Tuesday.

   The targeted suburbs --- scattered across an area known as eastern Ghouta 
--- have been subjected to weeks-long bombardment that has killed and wounded 
hundreds of people. Opposition activists say government forces have brought in 
more reinforcements in recent days, suggesting a major assault is imminent to 
recapture the area that is the last main rebel stronghold near Damascus.

   Monday's bombardment that killed nearly 100 people saw the use of warplanes, 
helicopter gunships, missiles as well as artillery, in a major escalation of 
violence near President Bashar Assad's seat of power.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the 
deadliest days in eastern Ghouta since 2015, adding that 20 children and 15 
women were among those killed.

   The opposition-affiliated Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, 
said the shelling and airstrikes killed 98 and that some people are still under 
the rubble. It said the dead included one of the rescue group's members, Firas 

   Both the Observatory and the White Helmets reported more airstrikes and 
shelling on Tuesday in eastern Ghouta as rebels pounded Damascus with mortar 

   Rebels retaliated by hitting some Damascus neighborhoods with mortar shells, 
killing one person and wounding six people, according to the state news agency 
SANA. On Tuesday morning, Damascus residents reported shelling on areas in 
central Damascus.

   "Shells are falling like rain. We are hiding in the corridor," a Damascus 
resident told The Associated Press, asking that her name not be mentioned for 
her own safety. She spoke while hiding in the corridor of an office building.

   Videos have surfaced from the eastern suburbs showing paramedics pulling out 
the injured from under the rubble while others are seen franticly digging 
through the debris in the dark, in search for survivors.

   "The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of 
control," said Panos Moumtzis, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for 
the Syria crisis, in a statement late Monday.

   "It's imperative to end this senseless human suffering now. Such targeting 
of innocent civilians and infrastructure must stop now," he said.


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