The Assad regime is committing war crimes against besieged residents of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, with heavy aerial bombardment compounding the misery created by a regime blockade, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
In a new report titled “Left to Die Under Siege,” the rights group said some 163,000 people in the region were engaged in an "agonizing struggle to survive."
Eastern Ghouta has been under government siege for nearly two years, with regime forces tightening the blockade in recent months.
The restrictions have caused a dire humanitarian situation, with food and medical shortages. In addition to the restrictions on the ground, Eastern Ghouta is regularly subjected to regime aerial bombardment.
Amnesty said it had evidence of "war crimes" committed by the Assad regime in Eastern Ghouta, and that the regime's siege of the area combined with "unlawful killing of its besieged civilians" amounted to "crimes against humanity."
For many in Eastern Ghouta, life "has become a prolonged experience of hardship and suffering," said Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program.
"By repeatedly bombing heavily populated areas in a series of direct, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks as well as by unlawfully besieging civilians, Syrian government forces have committed war crimes and displayed a sinister callousness towards Eastern Ghouta's civilians."
Amnesty said it documented at least 60 aerial attacks on Eastern Ghouta in the first half of 2015 that killed around 500 civilians.
"The timing and location of these attacks appear deliberately orchestrated to maximize damage or civilian casualties in a gruesome attempt by the Syrian government forces to terrorize the population," said Boumedouha.
The report described the effects of the regimes’ blockade on the area, accusing the Assad regime of using "starvation as a weapon of war."
Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet strongly condemns these ongoing massacres committed by the Assad regime across Syria, pointing out that this criminal escalation is a clear message to the international community that the Assad regime cannot be a partner but must be tried as a war criminal. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)