Syria rebels call for help against Assad as death toll rises

Refugee and Migrant Crisis

An anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, people walk besides a building on fire as they look for survivors and carry out bodies from the site after a Syrian government airstrike hit the area in the town of Hamouriyeh, east of Damascus, Syria, Friday, Jan. 23, 2014. Photo: AP

A Syrian opposition leader called Thursday on world leaders to take “immediate action” to end government attacks on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, amid reports that some 150 people have been killed in government airstrikes in the past 10 days.

Khaled Khoja, leader of the Syrian National Coalition, made the appeal at a press conference held from the group’s base in Turkey.

The government has been pounding the eastern suburbs of Damascus known as Ghouta for days as part of a military campaign against rebel-held districts east and south of the capital Damascus. Douma, a sprawling town east of Damascus, has taken the brunt of the airstrikes.

“The Assad regime’s killing of children and the elderly with rockets, barrel bombs, and toxic gases is as a crime as horrible as ISIS’s slaughtering and burning of people alive,” Khoja said, using an acronym for the Islamic State extremist group.

He said Assad’s “barbaric assault” on Douma constitutes a war crime and urged the U.N. to force the Syrian leader to stop indiscriminate bombardment of rebel-held territory.

Government batteries have rained shells and rockets on Douma and other rebel-held districts outside the city in attacks that activists say have been some of the worst they’ve seen, including dozens of barrel-sized bombs that are dumped from helicopters.

This story is compiled with information from The Associated Press.