A brutal offensive by the Syrian government and Russian forces has killed 94 people and injured hundreds more on Monday in the rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta, according to a UK-based rights group.
Rocket fire, shelling and air strikes on the besieged suburbs of Damascus also wounded more than 300, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
However the Syrian government and Russian foreign ministry has claimed that it is only targeting “militants”.
The United Nations says nearly 400,000 people live in eastern Ghouta, an area consisting of small towns and villages which has been under government siege since 2013.
The UN’s regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, Panos Moumtzis, said an “extreme escalation in hostilities” had killed at least 40 civilians and injured more than 150 on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiralling out of control,” he said in a statement. “Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”
The UK-based SOHR said the latest escalation started on Sunday, and the dead included 18 children.
The local civil defence group said warplanes and artillery had bombed Jisrreen, Saqba and other surrounding towns.
The rescue service, which operates in rebel-held territory, said strikes killed 20 people and wounded dozens in the town of Hammouriyeh alone on Monday.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military gained momentum in the war after Russia entered the conflict on his side in 2015.
Since then, rebels have been pushed out of major cities, and the Assad regime has retaken much of central and eastern Syria from ISIS.