Wednesday 18 September 2019

Macron condemns Ghouta violence and urges immediate Syrian truce

Activists say at least 260 people have been killed in rebel-held Ghouta since the bombardment began at the weekend.

Mr Macron urged an end to hostilities (AP)
Mr Macron urged an end to hostilities (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

French president Emmanuel Macron has said France “vigorously” condemns the bombardment of the rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta in Syria.

Mr Macron said: “The (Syrian) regime and some of its allies have decided to target civilian populations, and presumably some of its opponents.”

He called for a “truce” to ensure the evacuation of civilians and the creation of humanitarian access to the area “as soon as possible”, and urged the “immediate adoption” of a UN resolution on the issue.

At least 260 people have been killed in Syrian government air strikes on Ghouta since Sunday night, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the immediate suspension of “all war activities” in the Damascus suburb, where he said 400,000 people are living “in hell on earth”.

The UN chief said a suspension of fighting must allow for humanitarian aid to reach all in need and the evacuation of some 700 people needing urgent medical treatment.

Mr Guterres told the UN Security Council that “this is a human tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes and I don’t think we can let things go on in this horrendous way”.

He welcomed efforts by Sweden and Kuwait who are drafting a Security Council resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Syria calling for a 30-day ceasefire.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also called for restraint in Syria and sought access to the wounded after a deadly escalation in fighting in and around Damascus in recent days.

The Syrian Civil Defence rescue organisation said 10 people have been killed by government air strikes and shelling on the town on Wednesday.

The group, also known as the White Helmets, said government forces targeted Kafr Batna with air strikes, artillery fire, and barrel bombs — crude, explosives-filled oil drums dropped from helicopters at high altitudes.

The locally-run Ghouta Media Centre reported strikes on Kafr Batna and other towns in the rebel-held eastern region.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is determined to press ahead with a separate offensive to clear a Syrian enclave of Kurdish fighters despite an attempt by Syrian pro-government forces to enter the region.

Fighters loyal to Syria’s government entered the Afrin enclave on Tuesday to support the Syrian Kurdish militia. They were repelled by Turkish shelling.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the convoy of up to 50 vehicles had retreated east of Aleppo, adding: “It appears that their aim was a little bit of a show and a little bit of propaganda.”

The spokesman did not rule out new attempts by the group to enter Afrin, but warned they would become a “legitimate target if they take sides” with the Kurdish fighters.

Turkey launched its operation on January 20 to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish fighters it regards as “terrorists” because of their links to a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

PA Media

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