Syria

Children bombed and starved, schools attacked in horrific siege of Eastern Ghouta

The world is watching. But the people bombing the hell out of Eastern Ghouta don't seem to care about the international outrage.

Three days of air strikes, rocket attacks and artillery bombardment by Syrian government forces left more than 250 civilians dead - including at least 50 children - in the besieged region outside the capital Damascus. Another 1200 were injured.

The escalating battle for control of the rebel-held towns and villages is being likened to the horror of Aleppo, where parts of the historic city were reduced to rubble.

“Children in Eastern Ghouta are being starved, bombed and trapped," said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Response Director.

"Schools are supposed to be safe places for children, protected under international law, yet they are being attacked every single day. Children and teachers are terrified that at any moment they could be hit."

The charity's partners in Syria say 45 schools in Eastern Ghouta have been attacked since the start of January, with 11 completely destroyed. Many other schools have closed for days at a time because of the danger.

Attacks on school and hospitals during conflict are violations of international law. Syria has not signed the Safe Schools Declaration - an international commitment to protect education from attacks and stop the military use of schools. So far, 72 countries have signed.

Of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, only one has backed the declaration. Theirworld's Safe Schools petition urges Russia, China, the United States and United Kingdom to follow France's leadership.

The bombing of Eastern Ghouta intensified on February 18, leading to fears of an impending ground assault. The following day the UN called for an immediate ceasefire, saying the situation was "spiralling out of control" after an "extreme escalation in hostilities".

February 19 was the single bloodiest day in four years, with 127 civilians including 39 children killed in the bombardment.

UNICEF issued a statement showing a blank page, followed by: "We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage. Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?"

The violence in Eastern Ghouta is part of a wider escalation in fighting on several fronts as President Bashar al-Assad pushes to end the seven-year rebellion against him.