UN backs Syria ceasefire as death toll in rebel enclave tops 500


Team Udayavani, Feb 25, 2018, 1:56 PM IST

United Nations: The UN Security Council has unanimously demanded a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, as new air strikes on the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta took the civilian death toll from seven days of bombing to more than 500.

With support from Russia, the Security Council adopted a resolution on the ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations, but the measure did not specify when the truce would go into force beyond saying it should be “without delay.” 

After the council vote yesterday, Syrian warplanes backed by Russian air power launched new raids on a town in Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. At least 127 children are among the 519 dead in the bombing campaign that the regime launched last Sunday on the rebel enclave, just outside Damascus, the British-based monitor said.

At least 41 civilians were killed in yesterday’s strikes, including eight children. Russia has denied taking part in the assault. Quickly following up on the vote, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak by phone today with Russian President Vladimir Putin to push for the truce to take hold “in the coming days,” the Elysee palace said in a statement.

To this end France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will also go to Moscow on Tuesday. The UN vote was initially expected to be held Thursday, but was repeatedly delayed as diplomats were locked in tough negotiations to avoid a veto from Russia, which is militarily supporting President Bashar Al-Assad.

“Every minute the council waited on Russia, the human suffering grew,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote, accusing Moscow of stalling. “As they dragged out the negotiations, the bombs from Assad’s fighter jets continued to fall. In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and the shelling?” 

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected accusations of foot-dragging, saying that negotiations were needed to arrive at a demand for a ceasefire that was “feasible.”  “What is necessary is for the demands of the Security Council to be underpinned by concrete on-the-ground agreements,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has described Eastern Ghouta as “hell on Earth,” said the ceasefire must be “immediately” implemented. To win Russia’s approval, language specifying that the ceasefire would start 72 hours after adoption was scrapped, replaced by “without delay,” and the term “immediate” was dropped in reference to aid deliveries and evacuations.

In another concession to Moscow, the ceasefire will not apply to operations against the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, along with “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities” associated with the terror groups.

That would allow the Syrian government offensive to continue against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Idlib, the last province in Syria outside the control of Damascus. French Ambassador Francois Delattre said it was now important to ensure the ceasefire turns into reality on the ground, vowing to be “extremely vigilant… in the hours to come and the days to come.” 

“Nothing would be worse than seeing this resolution remain a dead letter,” he said. Russia has vetoed 11 draft resolutions throughout the Syrian conflict to block action that targeted its ally. In November, it used its veto to end a UN-led investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. In Eastern Ghouta, news of the UN vote on the ceasefire was greeted with a shrug.

“I don’t think this decision will be implemented. It will be respected neither by the regime nor Russia,” said Abu Mazen, a resident of Douma, Eastern Ghouta’s main town. “We can’t trust Russia or the regime. We are used to their betrayals,” he added. Control of Eastern Ghouta is shared between two main Islamist factions, while Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate is also present.

Russia has been pressing for a negotiated withdrawal of rebel fighters and their families like the one that saw the government retake full control of Syria’s second city Aleppo in December 2016. But all three rebel groups have refused. World leaders have expressed outrage at the plight of civilians in Eastern Ghouta.

The enclave is surrounded by government-controlled territory, and its 400,000 residents are unwilling or unable to flee the deadly siege. In one of the many unfolding dramas at a field hospital in Douma, a young woman amputated from the knee breastfed a 40-day-old infant who had lost his entire family in the bombings.

Food supplies have been running dry, with bread no longer available on local markets. The cornered rebels in Eastern Ghouta have been firing back into Damascus, where six civilians were wounded yesterday, state media said. Around 20 people have been killed in eastern districts of the capital since last Sunday, according to state media.

More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions driven from the homes in the war, which next month enters its eighth year with no diplomatic solution in sight.

Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.

Top News

9 lakh govt vehicles, buses older than 15 years to go off the road from Apr 1, says Gadkari

Constitutional status for Tulu: Committee led by Dr Mohan Alva formed, says Min Sunil Kumar

Budget session from Tuesday, President Murmu to address joint sitting of two Houses

PM to inaugurate India Energy Week on February 6 in Bengaluru

Tulu actor Aravind Bolar injured in road accident

Bengaluru to host first G20 Energy Transition Working Group meeting under India’s presidency

9 lakh govt vehicles, buses older than 15 yrs to be scrapped from Apr 1: Gadkari


Related Articles More

46 killed, nearly 150 injured in Taliban suicide attack at mosque in high-security zone in Pakistan’s Peshawar

Birthday party shooting in South Africa kills 8, injures 3

Biden visit to Baltimore highlights rail tunnel project

Trucks crash into commuters in Nigeria’s south; 20 dead

Pakistan govt raises petrol, diesel prices by Rs 35 each

MUST WATCH

Kollur Mookambika to get new Ratha after 400years

Villagers election boycott warning for road

Sand art | Malpe Beach Uthsava 2023 | Udupi – Udayavani

Various competitions, activities in Beach Utsava!

Melody King Rajesh Krishnan


Latest Additions

Air Marshal A P Singh to be new Vice Chief of IAF

46 killed, nearly 150 injured in Taliban suicide attack at mosque in high-security zone in Pakistan’s Peshawar

Nearly 100 students fall sick in Wayanad school; health personnel hold inspection

Guj court convicts self-styled godman Asaram Bapu in rape case filed in 2013

SC upholds NCLAT order on payment of dues to former employees of Jet Airways

Thanks for visiting Udayavani

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.
To continue reading, please turn it off or whitelist Udayavani.