By Adham Kako and Mohamad Misto
EASTERN GHOUTA / ANKARA (AA) - While fierce regime shelling of Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta district continues, thousands of civilians have fled, with many of those remaining forced to live in shelters.
Since last November, Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has continued to be the target of fierce attacks by the Assad regime.
Under siege by the regime since late 2012, Eastern Ghouta falls within a network of de-escalation zones -- endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran -- in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Although the regime claims to target areas belonging to "terrorists," images taken by Anadolu Agency in Haresta, Eastern Ghouta show the bombardments targeting civilians.
The photos show the ruins of houses made uninhabitable by regime attacks and streets almost completely devoid of civilians.
Anadolu Agency also captured children playing on the streets of Haresta during rain, as the bad weather hindered attacks by the regime.
- 2,700 families living in shelters
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hussam Beiruti, the head of Haresta’s local council, said the regime is attacking Eastern Ghouta out of a misguided desire for revenge.
"Regime forces are taking revenge for the districts they lost to the opposition in the last three months by bombing civilians in Haresta," he said.
"The regime and some military positions are very close to us, so we’re constantly being targeted," he said.
Beiruti said thousands of families left Haresta due to the fierce regime shelling, in addition to some 2,700 families forced to live in shelters and basements.
"Three months ago 3,900 families lived in the district, but nearly 1,200 families were forced to migrate to other districts," he said.
Beiruti said that the families in the shelters live under difficult circumstances, as many families get no help and have trouble accessing healthcare services.
According to Beiruti, 166 civilians, including 13 children, were killed during regime attacks between last Nov. 14 and Feb. 7.
At least 10,800 people live in shelters, the report added.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.