The United Nations has unanimously approved a ceasefire in Syria after days of bombing has left hundreds of dead and thousands injured. And the numbers are expected to rise.
Doctors Without Borders has reported at least 520 dead and 2,500 wounded in the attacks by the Bashar Assad regime that started last Sunday. The bombings were concentrated in eastern Ghouta, a region that includes the nation’s capital, Damascus.
Ghouta is one of the few areas remaining in rebel control in the nearly 7-year bloody civil war. Ridding the city of rebel forces is seen as a key by Assad’s forces to reclaiming control over the country and handing the revolution a decisive defeat.
The bombings in recent days have killed mostly civilians – hospitals being among the main targets. Airstrikes were coming in at a rate of nearly one per minute, according to the Associated Press.
The United Nations ceasefire was called to “to enable the safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded,” it said. Nearly 400,000 civilians are believed to remain in the region.
After U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire last Wednesday, a final vote was pushed back three times by Russia. That delay allowed government forces to continue their campaign unimpeded for several days, resulting in hundreds more casualties.
“As they dragged out the negotiation, the bombs from Assad’s fighter jets continued to fall,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said after the vote. “In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and shelling? How many more images did we need to see of fathers holding their dead children?”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based watchdog group says this week’s fighting has been some of the deadliest in Syria in nearly three years.