Syrian forces have launched a series of rocket attacks and airstrikes on the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta, where 500 civilians have been killed in the past week. A UN vote on a ceasefire has been delayed.
More airstrikes on the Syrian rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta on Saturday took the civilian death toll from seven days of devastating bombardment to more than 500 as the United Nations again struggled to hold a vote on a ceasefire.
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— According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 35 civilians were killed in Saturday's strikes, including eight children.
— The state news agency SANA reports that rebels have fired back into the capital, Damascus, hitting a hospital.
Russia demands 'undertakings'
— Drafted by Kuwait and Sweden, the resolution proposed a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered and critically ill and injured people to be evacuated.
— Russia has demanded that the text not apply to the "Islamic State" group or al-Qaida, as well as "individuals, groups, undertakings and entities" associated with them. It also insists that rebel groups comply fully with the truce.
— The vote was delayed twice on Friday, and the Security Council eventually scheduled a vote for Saturday at 1700 UTC, which failed to take place as negotiations continued.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to Russian president Vladimir Putin to urge him to support the ceasefire, according to German government sources.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Damascus needed guarantees that residential areas of Damascus would not continue to be attacked by rebel fighters. "For the resolution to be effective, and we are ready to negotiate such a text, we put forward a principle that will enable the ceasefire to become real and based on guarantees of all those inside eastern Ghouta and beyond eastern Ghouta," Lavrov said.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who did not participate in the negotiations, tweeted her dismay, asking how many more casualties there would be before an agreement was reached.
Russia has vetoed 11 draft Security Council resolutions to scupper action against the Damascus government, of which it is a key ally. In November, Russia used its veto to bring to an end a UN-led investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
rc/jlw (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)