Syrian regime's offensive claims 'highest death toll' in months

Syrian regime's offensive claims 'highest death toll' in months

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday it looked like Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's forces were using chemical weapons against rebels.

Paulo Pinheiro, in a statement, added that the spiraling violence in Syria had made "a mockery of the so-called "de-escalation zones" - an agreement past year between Russia, Iran, and Turkey to stabilize the lines of conflict and open corridors for urgently needed humanitarian relief.

The Syrian government has called the Turkish offensive in Afrin an illegal "aggression" and said it would deal with it accordingly.

A United Nations report concludes days later that the use of sarin gas had been proved "unequivocally and objectively".

Various Islamic rebel groups control the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, but it has been surrounded by Syrian regime forces for more than four years.

A separate crisis is developing east of Damascus, in the rebel-held enclave of Ghouta, where over 400,000 people surrounded by government forces have been reliant on United Nations aid for the past four years.

Rescuers from the White Helmets organization could be seen rushing shredded bodies covered in white dust to ambulances hurtling down streets littered with rubble.

"Fighting and retaliatory shelling from all parties is impacting civilians in this region and Damascus causing scores of deaths and injuries", the statement said.

The comments by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry come after stepped-up attacks on Idlib and Eastern Ghouta this week killed scores of civilians and reportedly targeted hospitals and medical facilities.




In apparent retaliation, rockets were fired on Damascus's Bab al-Touma neighbourhood, killing three civilians, the state news agency SANA reported.

Several schools in Damascus announced they were suspending classes for the next few days due to the upsurge in violence.

Although less deadly, regime attacks involving suspected chlorine-filled munitions on Ghouta have also been on the up in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the U.S.to withdraw its troops from Manbij and renewed a threat to expand Ankara's military offensive in Syria to this town.

He added that Turkey's army members as well as people from the opposite side are killed in the operation and Iran is not satisfied with that.

A day earlier, it said, 30 had been killed, and reported more than 40 air strikes on the Ghouta region, the last opposition-controlled area near the Syrian capital.

Ambassador Haley also made remarks condemning a Russian draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council meant to address the chemical weapons issue. With Idlib now also under siege, it's not clear there's anyplace for the remnants to evacuate to, and the rebels likewise seem to have little interest in negotiating.

The area becomes the target of regular bombings and artillery strikes; markets, schools and hospitals are hit.

The Chair of the Commission, Paulo Pinheiro, denounced the intensified violence, which he said makes "a mockery of the so-called 'de-escalation zones, ' meant to protect civilians".

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