By Seyit Aydogan / Safvan Allahverdi
ADDS REMARKS FROM US STATE DEPARMENT
OTTAWA, Canada / Washington (AA) - Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland Thursday strongly condemned the escalating situation unfolding in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district, a besieged suburb of Damascus.
At least 250 civilians were reportedly killed there within the last three days.
In a statement, Freeland said, “Canada strongly condemns the deliberate and increasing attacks against civilians in Eastern Ghouta, including medical professionals, first responders and humanitarian workers."
Since Tuesday, regime forces have stepped up attacks on Eastern Ghouta using barrel bombs, artillery fire and other types of weapons, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent based in the area.
Over a three-day period, the regime has reportedly carried out 260 separate attacks in Eastern Ghouta, killing more than 250 civilian residents of the district.
‘‘These attacks are reprehensible. Targeting civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law. We call for the immediate de-escalation of violence in the area and for the Syrian regime to allow for full access for humanitarian assistance and to respect basic human decency,” Freeland added.
At peace talks held in the Kazakh capital Astana in May of last year, Turkey, Russia and Iran designated Eastern Ghouta as a “de-escalation zone” in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.
Nevertheless, Russia -- one of the agreement’s three guarantor-states -- has failed to prevent the Assad regime from repeatedly violating the terms of the truce.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a press briefing said more than 400 civilians have been "horrifically killed" by the Syrian regime in support of Russia and Iran.
"Russia bears a unique responsibility for what is taking place there. Without Russia backing Syria the devastation and the deaths would certainly not be occurring," Nauert noted, adding that this shows the failure of the Astana process.
Stating that the Assad regime was able to survive with the support of Russia in 2015, Nauert said that they saw reports of Russia giving the regime military supplies.
Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years, which has brought the district to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict to date.