A Syrian war monitor says pro-government strikes Tuesday in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta have killed at least 45 people, continuing an escalation of violence following the deadliest day in the besieged area since 2015.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday’s airstrikes and shelling killed around 100 people. Retaliatory rebel shelling of Damascus was blamed for one death Tuesday.

Eastern Ghouta is the last main rebel stronghold near the Syrian capital and the jump in violence there has drawn international concern.

The International Red Cross expressed alarm Tuesday, saying on Twitter, “This cannot go on.”

“Distressing reports of dozens injured & killed every day in #EasternGhouta. Families trapped, with no safe place to hide from shelling. Dozens of mortars in Damascus cause civilian casualties and spread fear. We cannot let history repeat itself.”

Panos Moumtzis, the U.N.’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syrian crisis, said in a statement late Monday the humanitarian situation is “spiraling out of control.”

“The recent escalation of violence compounds an already precarious humanitarian situation for the 393,000 residents of East Ghouta, many of them internally displaced, and which account for 94 percent of all Syrians living under besiegement today,” Moumtzis said.

He also highlighted a lack of access for convoys of food and health aid.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and humanitarian aid chief Christos Stylianides said getting aid to eastern Ghouta is urgently needed to prevent more deaths.

“The international community should unite to stop this human suffering,” they said in a joint statement.

The Observatory said President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were using the airstrikes to prepare for a ground offensive to retake control of eastern Ghouta.

Stephen Zunes, political science professor and chair of Middle East Studies at the University of San Francisco, told VOA that given how long opposition fighters have controlled the area, there is likely to be fierce resistance and the fighting could last many months.

“In many ways we’re going to see a situation similar to Aleppo, unfortunately, where the government forces certainly had the upper hand in terms of weaponry, but they’ll have to retake the area block-by-block,” Zunes said.

Rebels held Aleppo for about four years before pro-government forces pounded the city with heavy airstrikes and shelling over the course of several months before reclaiming full control at the end of 2016.

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Written by Glasworld

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