Syrian Observatory: bombing kills 94 in eastern Ghouta in a day

1 / 2
Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on Monday. (AFP)
2 / 2
A Syrian family is seen fleeing from reported regime air strikes in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
0

Syrian Observatory: bombing kills 94 in eastern Ghouta in a day

BEIRUT: A surge in attacks by the Syrian government and its allies killed 94 people in the rebel pocket of eastern Ghouta in the space of 24 hours, a war monitoring group said on Monday.
Air strikes, rocket fire and shelling on the besieged suburbs of Damascus also wounded another 325 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
There was no comment from the Syrian military. The Damascus government says it only targets militants.
Factions in Ghouta fired mortars at districts of Damascus, killing a child and wounding eight others, Syrian state media said. Troops and allied forces struck militant targets there in response, the state news agency SANA said.
The United Nations says nearly 400,000 people live in eastern Ghouta, a pocket of satellite towns and farms under government siege since 2013.
Panos Moumtzis, UN regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, said an “extreme escalation in hostilities” had killed at least 40 civilians and injured more than 150 on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” he said in a statement. “Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”
The British-based Observatory said the latest escalation started on Sunday, and the dead included 18 children.
The local civil defense group said warplanes and artillery had pounded Saqba, Jisreen, and other towns. The rescue service, which operates in rebel territory, said strikes killed 20 people and wounded dozens in the town of Hammouriyeh alone on Monday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military gained momentum in the war after Russian war planes entered on his side in 2015, pushing rebels out of major cities, and retaking much of central and eastern Syria from Islamic State.

NO RELIEF
Wael Olwan, spokesman for the Failaq Al-Rahman rebel group in eastern Ghouta, said there had been heavy bombing throughout the day.
“There are no ground invasions in the field and clashes, but there is very big shelling and preparatory fire,” he said.
The United Nations said last week Syria was seeing some of the worst fighting of the war, which is entering its eighth year. The multi-sided conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Malnutrition has increased sharply in eastern Ghouta with hardly any food aid reaching the residents, the UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) says.
Rising violence reportedly pushed some 15,000 civilians to flee their homes last month, taking refuge in makeshift shelters or basements in the enclave, OCHA said.
Eastern Ghouta falls under cease-fire plans for rebel territory that Russia has brokered with the help of Turkey and Iran.
Residents and aid workers say the “de-escalation” deals have brought no relief. Food, fuel, and medicine have dwindled.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow and its allies could “deploy our experience of freeing Aleppo ... in the eastern Ghouta situation.”
With support from Russia and Iran, Damascus regained full control of the city of Aleppo in late 2016, after years of fighting and months of siege ended with an insurgent retreat.
Lavrov blamed “armed provocations” by Nusra militants, formerly linked to Al-Qaeda, for current conditions in eastern Ghouta.
The two main factions in Ghouta, which include Failaq Al-Rahman, accuse Moscow and the Syrian army of breaching the de-escalation agreements. They say they have used the presence of a few hundred fighters from Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch as a pretext to attack the enclave. 


UN Yemen envoy pushes Security Council for robust truce monitoring

Updated 2 min 51 sec ago
0

UN Yemen envoy pushes Security Council for robust truce monitoring

  • Griffiths called for deployment of UN monitors to observe the implementation of a cease-fire in Hodeida and the withdrawal of Houthi militia
  • Saudi Arabia says it is committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen

JEDDAH: A robust monitoring regime is urgently needed in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah to oversee compliance by the warring parties with an agreed cease-fire in the region, United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Friday.
The Iranian-aligned Houthis and the Arab Coalition-backed Yemen government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi agreed on Thursday to stop fighting for Houthi-held Hodeidah and withdraw their troops, the first significant breakthrough for UN-led peace efforts in five years of conflict.
“A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential, it is also urgently needed and both parties have told us they would very much welcome it and indeed depend on it,” Griffiths told the 15-member council, adding that UN officials were already planning for such a deployment.
Such a monitoring mission needs the backing of the Security Council in a resolution, diplomats said.
Griffiths said in a video briefing that retired Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert had agreed to lead the monitoring component of the agreement, which took effect on Thursday when the deal was published. He said Cammaert could arrive in the region within days.
“Being present in the field soon is an essential part of the confidence that needs to go with the implementation of this agreement,” Griffiths said.
The council was already discussing a British-drafted resolution to enshrine five requests made by UN aid chief Mark Lowcock — one of which was for a truce around facilities needed for aid and commercial imports — and diplomats said that would now be reworked to endorse the agreement reached in Sweden.
“We hope to be able to work expeditiously with colleagues to bring about a Security Council resolution which will give the firmest possible support to what has been achieved so far,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council.
“As requested we will of course want — with colleagues — to address the monitoring requirements,” she said.
“The UN will take on a leading role in supporting Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation in management and inspections at Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa,” Griffiths said. “The UN ... has developed a plan seeking specific support from member states in the port.”
Meanwhile, in a statement by Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom backed “the agreements reached in Sweden in UN-sponsored talks between a delegation of Yemen’s legitimate government and the Houthi rebels,” the official SPA news agency reported.
“The Kingdom remains engaged in the search for a political solution in Yemen which guarantees the security and stability of the country,” the statement said.
The statement also called on the Iran-aligned Houthis to “embark on this path” toward a political solution.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry also said on Friday that it welcomed the agreement between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi militia. 
The ministry said that the Kingdom was committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen.
The handing over of the port of Hodeidah to the control of the United Nations will help to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, the ministry stressed.