Fighting in besieged rebel enclave mars UN Syria truce

Damascus – Syrian government forces on Sunday mounted shelling and air attacks on the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, activists said, a day after the United Nations approved a humanitarian truce across the war-torn country.

A woman was killed and seven injured by government artillery shelling on Eastern Ghouta’s town of Hammuriyeh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported.
It was the first reported civilian death since the UN Security Council voted on Saturday in favour of an immediate ceasefire throughout Syria, lasting for 30 days.
The truce agreed in New York was to allow delivery of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of critically ill people, but without agreement from the warring Syrian parties on the ground it was doubtful how long such a ceasefire could hold.
The council voted unanimously in favour of the resolution despite initial resistance from Russia, a veto-holding ally of al-Assad.
Government helicopters on Sunday dropped barrels packed with explosives on rebel-controlled suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, the observatory said.
Sources close to the government said that Syrian forces and allied paramilitaries had started an operation to storm Eastern Ghouta, one of the last areas still under rebels’ control near Damascus.
Clashes were also reported between government forces and rebels on the outskirts of Eastern Ghouta.
A rebel commander told dpa that opposition fighters had repulsed an attempt by government forces to advance into the region and killed at least 25 soldiers.
Last week, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began a massive air offensive on Eastern Ghouta, one of the fiercest in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.
More than 500 civilians are estimated to have been killed in the onslaught, triggering international outrage.
Al-Assad's forces have besieged Eastern Ghouta for more than four years.
A total of 400,000 people in the region have been largely cut off from humanitarian aid, and activists have warned that the situation is dire, with food and medical supplies running out.
Elsewhere in Syria, clashes were Sunday under way between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters in the region of Afrin in northern Syria, the Observatory reported.
Backed by shelling and air bombardment, the Turkish forces and allied rebels, advanced further in the region and seized several villages, the watchdog added.
Last month, Turkey started a military operation on Kurdish-held Afrin. Ankara regards Kurdish fighters there as terrorists.
Previous truce attempts have failed to hold in Syria, despite multiple rounds of international talks aimed at resolving the conflict, which began in March 2011.


Sunday, February 25th 2018
By Khalil Hamlo and Ramadan Al-Fatash,

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