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Syria war: Harrowing images show 10 days of devastation after bombings, airstrikes

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ABOVE: Fighting continues in Syria's eastern Ghouta despite ceasefire – Feb 26, 2018

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. Discretion is advised.

Airstrikes, shellings and the reported use of chemical weapons have killed more than 580 Syrian civilians, including countless children and women, in less than two weeks, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Feb. 18, the Syrian government started launching attacks in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta, a suburb that is about 10 kilometres east of Syria’s capital city, Damascus, and home to around 400,000 people.

READ MORE: Violence still rages in Syria despite UN ceasefire to end the ‘hell on Earth’

The bombardment in the past week and a half has been one of the most intense in Syria’s seven-year war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Eastern Ghouta’s humanitarian situation is so dire, it’s caused widespread international condemnation, with UN secretary-general António Guterres describing the situation in the enclave as “hell on earth.”

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Hala, 9, receives treatment at a makeshift hospital following Syrian government bombardments on rebel-held town of Saqba, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images
A rescue worker carries a girl who was saved alive inside the debris of buildings after Assad Regime carried out an airstrike over Sakba town of Eastern Goutha region. Khaled Akasha /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A Syrian woman and children run for cover amid the rubble of buildings following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images
A medic treats a Syrian man who was wounded in air strikes at a make-shift hospital. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images
Fire breaks out after Assad regime forces carried out airstrikes over the de-escalation zone in Arbin town of Eastern Ghouta. Qusay Noor/Anadolu Agency/Getty Image
Paramedics tend to the injuries of a Syrian child who was wounded during reported regime bombardment. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
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A lightly wounded Syrian girl lies on a stretcher. Hamza Al-Ajweh/Getty Images

Why is this happening now?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has been trying to drive opposition fighters from eastern Ghouta since 2013.

The area has eluded government control despite being encircled and sporadically bombarded for almost five years. Now, it appears the Syrian government and its Russian backers have decided to retake the territory at any cost.

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A wounded Syrian boy waits to receive treatment at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images
Two wounded Syrian children wait for medical aid. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian child covers his wound with gauze as he receives first aid treatment at a makeshift hospital. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian man carries a girl injured in government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouri. ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian children fill plastic containers at a water pump in Arbin in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on February 25. BDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images
A wounded Syrian man is assisted at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images

Much like rebel-held eastern Aleppo in late 2016, eastern Ghouta is set to become a blood-soaked war region as Assad tries to bomb it into submission.

With Russia and Iran’s help, Assad has turned the war decisively in his favour, recapturing key areas of the country from rebels and Islamic State militants.

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Civil defense team member carries a wounded baby rescued from a wreckage after Assad regime forces carried out airstrikes over the de-escalation zone in Arbin town of Eastern Ghouta. Qusay Noor/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Doctors treat ten-year-old Omar who was injured in an air strike that killed several members of his family on their home in Otaybah. AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian boy sits on a bed as a woman carries a child above him as they arrive for medical attention. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian man walking next to damaged buildings following regime air strikes. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images

There are even reports that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons. On Sunday, several people suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas in eastern Ghouta, and one child was killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

READ MORE: North Korea sending chemical weapons to Syria, UN report says

WATCH: In Syria, a father says goodbye to his dead child

Click to play video: 'In Syria, a father says last goodbye to dead child' In Syria, a father says last goodbye to dead child
In Syria, a father says last goodbye to dead child – Feb 22, 2018

Video circulated on social media networks in the aftermath of the attack showed a child’s corpse wrapped in a blue cloth, and several bare-chested men and young boys appearing to struggle for breath, with some holding nebulizers to their mouths and noses.

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The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons in the war that will soon enter its eighth year.

Syrian children and adults receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift clinic. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian babies receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift clinic on the rebel-held village of al-Shifuniyah in the Eastern Ghouta region. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian children receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift clinic. AFP PHOTO / HAMZA AL-AJWEH (Photo credit should read HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian children and adults receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift clinic on the rebel-held village of al-Shifuniyah in the Eastern Ghouta region. HAMZA AL-AJWEH/AFP/Getty Images

Ceasefire not working

On Saturday, the UN Security Council demanded a 30-day truce across Syria. But the ceasefire resolution was not upheld and the bombing continued.

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READ MORE: Syrian government gains ground, clashes with rebels on 2nd day of ceasefire plan

Russia then ordered a five-hour daily humanitarian pause on Tuesday in order to allow civilians caught in the fighting to flee from the rebel-held area.

This photo posted Sunday, Feb 25, 2018, by the Syrian insurgent group Army of Islam, shows a fighter with the Army of Islam rebel group firing artillery during clashes with government forces. Army of Islam, via AP
This photo posted Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018, by the Syrian insurgent group Army of Islam, shows a fighter with the Army of Islam rebel group, as he prepares a rocket propelled grenade in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus. Army of Islam, via AP
This photo posted Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018, by the Syrian insurgent group Army of Islam, shows a fighter with the Army of Islam, as he loads a heavy machine gun with bullets, in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus. Army of Islam, via AP

But after a brief lull, the agreement collapsed into renewed bombardment on Tuesday. Not a single person inside eastern Ghouta has been evacuated from the area, Syria’s civil defence told Al Jazeera.

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Moscow and Damascus blamed rebels for the collapse of the truce on Tuesday, saying fighters had shelled a safe route intended for civilians to leave the enclave.

On Wednesday, the UN was trying to deliver aid across conflict lines to the people of eastern Ghouta, but UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the area “has totally collapsed.”

He said that unless this changes, “We will soon see even more people dying from starvation and disease than from the bombing and the shelling.”

— With files from the Associated Press

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