A child stands by the door of an abandoned school in Hamoria, Eastern Ghouta, Syria, December 23, 2017. More than 40 people have died recently as air raids continue in the area by Syrian state forces, in assaults by the government on rebel-held positions near Damascus. Photo by Mohammed Badra/EPA-EFE
Jan. 3 (UPI) -- More than 40 people have died in recent air raids by Syrian state forces on rebel-held positions near Damascus.
Government officials said they launched the air raids as a counter offense to opposition fighters in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus-area neighborhood home to 400,000 people -- roughly half of them children.
At least 15 airstrikes targeted the area during intense battles between the government and rebels, leading to the death of 44 government soldiers and 47 militants, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog group.
Food is scarce and about 650 people need urgent medical care, but with medicine rationed many are dying. Aid agencies recently evacuated a few dozen of the most critically ill.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, director of Doctors Under Fire, continues to lead the organization's campaign asking for a ceasefire of attacks against healthcare workers, facilities and patients in conflict zones.
"There are 125 children in Ghouta who will die without urgent medical help," de Bretton-Gordon said in an interview with Sky News. "Three of those children, in particular, shame humanity itself."
The doctor said constant bombardment and lack of food in Ghouta is "creating Armageddon every day" on the streets of the suburb, "which has been virtually raised to the ground."
"The medical infrastructure and people have been directly targeted rather than explicitly protected as the rules of war dictate," de Bretton-Gordon said.