Sunday, 21 Apr 2019

Hours after Security Council calls for truce, Syrian forces have launched ground and air strikes in East Ghouta


The UN Security CouncilThe UN Security Council -  Syrian government forces have launched ground and air strikes in East Ghouta, witnesses said, hours after the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad's troops began fighting opposition groups from various fields in a rebel enclave near Damascus on Sunday morning, while Syrian fighter planes continued to encircle the encircled region for eight consecutive days.

Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as Front al-Nusra, is one of the many opposition groups that controls several areas in the enclave.

The biggest group is al Qaeda linked to Syria which says it has captured and killed "a number of soldiers" as they attempt to enter the city, as quoted from Al Jazeera.

Reported from Gaziantep in neighboring Turkey, Bin Javaid insists there are many government efforts to "invade" the area from several sides.

The rebel source who controlled the enclave rejected the attack, he reported, saying that fighters are struggling to defend their positions in various fields.

Opposition fighters say they will uphold the UN ceasefire, but will respond to any aggression as they deserve to defend themselves. The aim of the ceasefire is to evacuate the outskirts of Damascus, who are under siege, and to allow the flow of food and medicinal aid.

Last week, deadly air strikes and artillery fire launched by Russian-backed Syrian troops exacerbated a terrible humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave, which housed about 400,000 people.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), more than 500 civilians were killed by the air bombing campaign that began on 18 February.

"It should be noted that before the ground offensive began, there were endless bombings in many places in East Ghouta, where the rebel defensive line was," Bin Javaid said.

East Ghouta is the last remaining rebel territory to the east of Damascus and besieged by Assad forces since 2013, in an attempt to drive out rebel forces. According to Bin Javaid, government forces have "specifically targeted underground tunnels and hideouts".

"It seems the government is now insisting on entering East Ghouta."

Meanwhile, Iran's armed forces chief Mohammed Baqri, said on Sunday that Syria will respect the UN's call for a ceasefire but will continue its assault on what he calls "terrorists" and in areas controlled by Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham .

"The UN ceasefire resolution in Syria does not include East Ghouta, refugee operations are continuing in the suburbs," Tasnim quoted Baqri as saying on Twitter.

Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, also fought against opposition groups in Idlib province - one of the last remaining rebel regions in Syria.

Both East Ghouta and Idlib are meant to be two of several "de-escalation zones" agreed upon a year ago by Russia, Iran - both government allies - and Turkey - supporters of armed opposition. Mohamad Katoub, advocacy manager on behalf of hospitals and medical facilities in East Ghouta, stresses that the biggest challenge is the shooting that targets "humanitarian infrastructure". Katoub noted the rescue team could not move due to the destruction of buildings and ongoing attacks.

"In the last six days, we lost 40 percent of our capacity to respond to injuries and people in need of medical services in this area," he said.

Without proper sanitation or food, pregnant women, patients with chronic diseases and children who need vaccinations are at risk for disease, he added.

"Now, we need a life-saving operation," Katoub said, referring to thousands of wounded civilians.

"We have no high expectations of this UNSC resolution - this is not the first UNSC resolution, which calls for immediate assistance within Ghouta."




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