Witnesses say deadly airstrikes on eastern Ghouta in Syria were at their “most intense” on Friday morning, hours before the UN was set to vote on a proposal calling for a temporary ceasefire.
The region continued to come under heavy fire from President Assad’s forces overnight as warplanes pounded the rebel-held enclave near the capital of Damascus, with 417 people, including almost 100 children, thought to have died as a result of “concentrated fire” since Sunday.
Sweden and Kuwait have put forward a draft resolution demanding a 30-day truce to allow for the delivery of aid and medical evacuations as the bombing enters its sixth day, which the UN Security Council will decide on during a meeting at 4pm on Friday.
Olog Skoog, the Swedish ambassador, said that in seven years of war in the Middle Eastern country, the situation in eastern Ghouta had “never been worse”, with a witness in the town of Douma describing the latest airstrikes and artillery fire on Friday morning as “the most intense so far”.
Hundreds of people have been pulled from the rubble by the local emergency services in recent days, with the early morning bombardment spread across Douma, Zamalka and Hammouriyeh.
The UN motion is expected to gain the nine votes needed to be passed, but Russia, which has continued to back the Syrian government against the rebels, has the power to veto it.
Previous attempts to bring hostilities in Syria to an end, even on a temporary basis, have been thwarted by Russia, having vetoed on possible security council action 11 times.
The US has accused Moscow of bearing “unique responsibility” for the violence in eastern Ghouta, with its amendments to the resolution proposed by Sweden and Kuwait ruling out the possibility of an immediate ceasefire.
Instead, the Russian draft circulated to the security council on Thursday only commits to an end to hostilities “as soon as possible” and condemns the “relentless shelling” of Damascus by the rebels.
It adds that foreign military forces should only operate in Syria “in coordination with official authorities”, which several council diplomats – speaking on the condition of anonymity – described as unacceptable.
Kelley Currie, the US ambassador for economic and social affairs, told the security council that President Assad was prepared “to bomb or starve” his opponents into submission.
She added that President Assad was relying on Russia to veto the motion so that the siege could continue.
The bombardment on eastern Ghouta – home to 400,000 people – has drawn parallels with attacks on eastern Aleppo, which claimed thousands of civilian lives.
Since 2011 more than 340,000 people have died as a result of conflict in Syria, with millions forced to flee their homes and cities left in ruins.