Pauses in Syria suburb 'not enough — United Nations official

Posted March 03, 2018

Douma: A "humanitarian pause" announced by Russian Federation in Syria's deadly bombardment of Eastern Ghouta failed to end violence Tuesday, with fresh bloodshed and no sign of aid deliveries or residents leaving the besieged enclave.

Recent satellite images of one neighbourhood in Eastern Ghouta show up to 71 percent of buildings destroyed or damaged.

Russia, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has called for daily five-hour local ceasefires to establish what it calls a humanitarian corridor so aid can enter the enclave and civilians and wounded can leave.

He said that since February 18 over 580 people are reported to have been killed and well over 1,000 injured in air and ground strikes in the Damascus, home to about 400,000 people.

Mr Lowcock said lorries loaded with supplies have been poised to go to 10 besieged areas, including Douma, the main town in the enclave, since Saturday.

"The armed groups are failing the humanitarian operation", he said. More fighting. More death. "Under worldwide humanitarian law, humanitarian corridors are things which need to be well planned and must be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides, not only with one side", she told AFP.

Kelley Currie, the USA ambassador on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, Feb. 22, 2018, at U.N. headquarters.

Kelley Currie, the United States ambassador for economic and social affairs, called a five-hour pause "cynical, callous, and in flagrant defiance of the demands" for a cessation of hostilities "for at least 30 days - every day, all day".

Bassam Khabieh  ReutersDamaged cars and buildings are seen in the besieged town of Douma Eastern Ghouta Damascus Syria Feb. 25 2018
Bassam Khabieh ReutersDamaged cars and buildings are seen in the besieged town of Douma Eastern Ghouta Damascus Syria Feb. 25 2018

But he said there has been no access for humanitarian convoys, nor authorisation by the regime to go into the besieged areas, nor medical evacuations since the Security Council resolution was passed.

Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 earlier this month as it returned from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.

Before the meeting began, French ambassador Francois Delattre recalled that the rebels in Ghouta had said Tuesday they were ready to observe a ceasefire, but the Syrian regime has given no sign it is ready to do the same.

Nebenzia accused council members of misinterpreting the resolution, saying pauses must be preceded by an agreement of the parties on the ground for de-escalation.

After the end of the Islamic State, foreign forces are now fighting openly in Syria. "What we want is a full and permanent ceasefire for all of Ghouta", he said. He added that it is necessary to effectively neutralize the Nusra Front extremist group.

"I have to say I know no humanitarian actor. who thinks the five hours is enough for us to be able to deliver relief into eastern Ghouta and to organise orderly medical evacuations out", he said of the Russian unilateral declaration.

The United States also blamed Syria for continuing to use chemical weapons. "The cessation of hostilities is for at least 30 days, every day, all day".

While Russia and the Syrian government say they are aiming at armed groups, who it refers to as "terrorists", civilian neighbourhoods and sources of livelihood have been attacked frequently.