BEIRUT — A new wave of deadly Syrian government bombardment in the opposition-held eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus on Thursday killed 13 people as world leaders and aid groups called for an end to the carnage that has killed hundreds of people in recent days.
The airstrikes on rebel towns in the suburb known as eastern Ghouta were reported by several local opposition activist groups and a Britain-based war monitor. The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, that works in opposition-held areas said its paramedics rushed to several areas after the shelling.
Syrian government forces have been pounding the area for days, hitting residential buildings, hospitals and infrastructure and overwhelming medics and rescue workers. The bombardment has forced many among the nearly 400,000 residents to sleep in basements and makeshift shelters, and has overwhelmed rescue workers who have spent days digging out survivors from the wreckage of bombed out buildings.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate suspension of “all war activities” in the area where he said people are living “in hell on earth.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday for the European Union to step up pressure on Russia and Iran to end the violence in Syria.
“The regime is not fighting against terrorists, but against its own people, killing children, destroying hospitals, and this is a massacre to be condemned,” she told Parliament.
Besides President Bashar Assad, Merkel said “Iran and Russia have a particular responsibility” as they are both supporting the government forces. She said Germany's foreign minister plans to talk directly with his Russian counterpart and called for other EU nations to also do what they can.
“We need to do everything in our power to put an end to this massacre,” she said.
Russian news reports, meanwhile, said Moscow has beefed up its forces in Syria with several warplanes, including its latest fighter jets.
News outlets on Thursday carried pictures of a pair of Su-57 fighters heading to land at Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia that serves as the main hub for Russian operations in Syria. An early warning A-50 plane, four Su-35 fighters and four Su-25 ground attack jets also arrived at the base Wednesday.
The Kremlin on Thursday wouldn't comment on the reports, referring the questions to the military that remained mum about the deployment.
Russia has rejected allegations it was responsible for the mounting civilian casualties in eastern Ghouta.
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