Monday 23 April 2018

Ceasefire pressure grows as Syrian bombing campaign continues near Damascus

A fresh wave of strikes comes after the US accused Syrian president Bashar Assad of planning ‘to bomb or starve’ opponents in besieged eastern Ghouta into submission.

A protest takes place outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul (AP)
A protest takes place outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul (AP)

By Zeina Karam

Syrian government warplanes supported by Russia have continued their bombardment of the rebel-controlled eastern suburbs of Damascus for a sixth day, killing five people, activists said.

The death toll from the past week climbed to more than 400, with the number of casualties overwhelming rescuers and doctors at hospitals, many of which have also been bombed.

This fresh bombardment comes a day after world leaders called for an urgent ceasefire in Syria to allow relief agencies to deliver aid and evacuate the critically wounded from besieged areas.

However, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who called Thursday’s meeting, put forward last-minute amendments, saying the proposed resolution was “simply unrealistic”. A new vote is likely on Friday.

The United States accused Syrian president Bashar Assad of planning “to bomb or starve” opponents in besieged eastern Ghouta into submission — just as it did in Aleppo.

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Protests take place outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul (AP)

Kelley Currie, US ambassador for economic and social affairs, told the UN Security Council that the Syrian leader is counting on Russia, a key ally and veto-wielding member of the council, to make sure it “is unable to stop their suffering”.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence Rescue Group reported new airstrikes in Douma, Arbeen and other towns that make up the eastern suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five people were killed in raids on Hammouriyeh, Zamalka, Douma and al-Marj. The UK-based group monitors the Syria war through a network of activists on the ground.

Separately, Human Rights Watch has criticised the way Turkey is conducting its offensive in northern Syria, saying it has failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

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United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock speaks to the Security Council (AP)

The New York-based group cites three attacks in the Afrin region in late January which it says killed a total of 26 civilians, including 17 children. In a statement, it called on Turkey to thoroughly investigate these strikes and make the findings public.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive in the Kurdish-controlled region on January 20, saying it aims to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting within Turkey.

According to several estimates around 120 civilians have been killed so far in the offensive. Turkey denies hitting civilians.

The YPG has accused Turkey of bombing a convoy of civilians that was crossing into Afrin to protest against Turkey’s offensive, resulting in multiple casualties who were moved to hospitals in Afrin for treatment.

Syrian state TV said a convoy carrying aid and heading toward Afrin has been targeted by Turkish artillery, inflicting more casualties.

The broadcast gave no further details about Thursday’s incident, which came two days after pro-government fighters began entering the predominantly Kurdish town to shore up the Kurdish forces, after reaching an agreement with the YPG. Turkey has threatened to bomb the Syrian forces if they work together with the Kurds.

Press Association

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