The United Nations humanitarian chief on Thursday called for action by the Security Council to halt the appalling destruction of Syria’s eastern Ghouta, where nearly 300 people have reportedly been killed in just the past few days, as “bombs and mortars have rained down on bakeries and medical facilities.”

“What we need is a sustained cessation of hostilities and we need it desperately,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Council via video conference, adding: “Millions of battered and beleaguered children, women and men depend on meaningful action by this Council.”

He told the gathering that as UN Member States, they are all aware that their obligations under international humanitarian law are just that; legally binding. “They are not favours to be traded in a game of death and destruction. Humanitarian access is not a ‘nice-to-have.’ It is a legal requirement.”

Counter-terrorism efforts, Mr. Lowcock continued, cannot supersede the obligation to respect and protect civilians. “They do not justify the killing of civilians and the destruction of entire cities and neighborhoods.”

“When an entire generation is robbed of its future, when hospital attacks have become the new normal, when sieges of entire cities and neighbourhoods have become a lasting reality for hundreds of thousands of people, the international community must take urgent and concrete action,” he told the members of the Council, who remain divided after nearly a week of consultations on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in eastern Ghouta.

Reading out to the Council excerpts of thousands of text messages and social media posts received over the past three days by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria in Geneva, from civilians in eastern Ghouta pleading for help, Mr. Lowcock said one aid worker had lamented:

Air raids have targeted residential buildings. Whole families have died under the rubble. Today, as the battles intensify I call on you […] to act to stop the systematic operations against civilians and open the roads for humanitarian assistance — ERC Lowcock, reading a message from an aid worker in east Ghouta

“Most air raids have intentionally targeted civilian residential buildings. Whole families have died under the rubble. Today, as the battles intensify I call on you […] to act to stop the systematic operations against civilians and open the roads for humanitarian assistance.”

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