United Nations, Feb 22 (IANS) The members of the UN Security Council may vote on a temporary ceasefire for Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta region, a day after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres deplored the plight of the civilians trapped there as "hell on earth".
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Thursday that 335 people had been killed in Eastern Ghouta since Sunday evening, with 79 children and 50 women among the dead.
A draft resolution put forward by Sweden and Kuwait on Wednesday called for a 30-day halt in the fighting in the rebel-held Damascus suburb, where heavy shelling by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces took a heavy toll this week.
CNN cited the SOHR as saying that the bombardment injured another 1,745 civilians. Syria says it is targeting terrorist groups in the area.
Twenty medical facilities had been targeted by regime strikes since Monday, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, adding to the pain of civilians desperately short on food, water and drugs after years under siege.
"I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta: 400,000 people who live in hell on earth," the UN chief said on Wednesday.
"My appeal for all those involved is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in Eastern Ghouta, allowing for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need," he said.
The UNSC's deliberations came as international outcry over the plight of civilians in Eastern Ghouta gathered force.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said that European nations -- and Syria's backers -- must do more to halt the violence.
"What we currently see, the dreadful events in Syria, a regime fighting not against terrorists, but against its own people, the killing of children, the destruction of hospitals, all this is a massacre which needs to be condemned. We clearly say no, yet it calls on us to try and play a bigger role so that we can end such a massacre," she said.
"This call also goes for the allies of the Assad regime, especially Iran and Russia. There is a responsibility there."
In a statement late Wednesday condemning the Eastern Ghouta attacks, the White House singled out Russian and Iranian support for the Syrian regime.
"Assad and his deplorable regime must stop committing additional atrocities and must not be further abetted by backers in Moscow and Tehran," it said.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May also called for Syria and its backers to ensure that the violence stops and help is allowed in.
French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, accused the Assad regime of using the fight against terrorism as a "pretext" to target civilians.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin put the blame for the crisis on the rebel groups. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said those who support terrorists were "responsible for the situation in Eastern Ghouta," Russian state news agency Tass reported.