Fighting in Eastern Ghouta continues despite UN, Kremlin-backed humanitarian orders

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have continued their attacks on Eastern Ghouta, despite a UN resolution passed Saturday demanding a cessation of hostilities.

Aerial and ground campaigns under Syria’s Operation Damascus Steel, Damascus’ offensive against the region have also continued in defiance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order on Monday for a daily five-hour pause to the fighting.

Mr. Putin ordered the pause to being on Tuesday to allow humanitarian aid to flow into the besieged city and for the creation of a corridor to allow non-belligerents to leave.

A suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched an offensive in early February to retake Eastern Ghouta from several non-aligned Islamic groups which have occupied it since 2013.

The SAA intensified its bombardment of the area on Sunday, Feb. 18.  As Syrian troops pressed their offensive against the territory, the UN and some Western officials traded accusations with the Kremlin and Damascus.

The UN joined calls from UK Foreign Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson demanding Russia pressure the Assad regime to end the aerial and artillery bombardment and observe the UN ceasefire demand.

Responding to both the UN and Johnson, the Kremlin declared the humanitarian corridors have been set, but have come under relentless bombardment from rebel groups.

Map showing control of the Eastern Ghouta (19 February 2017)

On Thursday, reports emerged the UN was nearing confirmation humanitarian convoys would soon be able to enter the devastated city; the UN announced it was waiting on an “facilitation letter” from the Assad regime to begin its mission.

Prior to the beginning of the civil war in 2011, Eastern Ghouta boasted a population of over 2 million residents.  Today, estimates place the population at 400,000.

Humanitarian groups have repeatedly expressed concerns Eastern Ghouta may face the same fate as Aleppo.


[Reuters] [BBC] [VOA] [Photo courtesy AFP via RFI]