Syria: Over 556 Dead in ‘Heaviest Bombardment’ in Eastern Ghouta

The bombardment of eastern Ghouta has been one of the heaviest of the war, killing at least 556 people in 8 days.

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Two days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, the Russians have called for a daily "humanitarian pause" to take place in the capital Damascus' eastern Ghouta region amid reluctance of the rebels.

Russia will establish a humanitarian corridor and implement a five-hour daily truce in Syria's eastern Ghouta, it said on Monday, 26 February, after a UN Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across the entire country.

The bombardment of eastern Ghouta over the past week has been one of the heaviest of the war, killing at least 556 people in eight days, according to a toll compiled by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor.

Over the past week, Syria’s army and its allies have subjected the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta near Damascus to one of the heaviest bombardments of the seven-year war, killing hundreds.

On Sunday, 25 February, health authorities there said several people had suffered symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure and on Monday rescue workers and a war monitor said seven small children were killed by air and artillery strikes in one town.

"Eastern Ghouta cannot wait, it is high time to stop this hell on earth," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for implementation of the ceasefire.

Fighting has raged across Syria since the resolution on Saturday, 24 February, as Turkey presses its offensive against a Kurdish militia in Afrin, rival rebel groups fight each other in Idlib and a US-led coalition targets Islamic State in the east.

Russia's defence minister was cited by the RIA news agency as saying President Vladimir Putin had ordered a daily ceasefire in eastern Ghouta from 9 am to 2 pm each day and for the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to leave.

Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effectively implemented. And that is why I expect the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained, particularly to ensure the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, the evacuation of the critically sick and the wounded and the alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people. As you know, the United Nations is ready to do its part.
António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, did not say whether the Syrian government or other allied forces had agreed to abide by the five-hour daily truce.

Mohamad Alloush, the political chief of one of eastern Ghouta's biggest rebel factions, said the Syrian army and its allies had launched "a sweeping ground assault" after the UN resolution, adding it was vital that the truce be implemented.

"We hope for real, serious, practical action," he said.

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