Syrian forces gain ground in Eastern Ghouta despite truce | News | DW | 28.02.2018
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Syrian forces gain ground in Eastern Ghouta despite truce

A temporary ceasefire offered up by Russia appears to have been wholly ineffective as violence continues. Russia blames rebel groups for the outbreaks of violence during the daily humanitarian pause.

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Syrian gov't steps up airstrikes after temporarary truce

Syrian government forces made gains against rebels in Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday despite a supposed truce in the area, a monitoring group reported.

Russia and the US have increasingly clashed over Moscow's failure to implement the ceasefire as well as the use of chemical weapons. Russia blamed Washington and its allies for sparing terrorists on the ground.

Read more: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the new Middle East

Wednesday's developments

  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that air strikes and artillery fire in Eastern Ghouta stopped just before the pause took hold, but that clashes continued around Hosh al-Zawahira and Shaifuniyeh.
  • Government forces advanced against Jaish al-Islam rebels in the eastern outskirts area of Hawsh al-Dawahira, the Observatory said.
  • The Syrian military claimed the humanitarian corridor had been opened, but according to state TV no civilians left the heavily bombarded area on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Read more: What foreign powers want from the Syrian war

Russia blames rebels, EU calls for action

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday: "Russia together with the Syrian government have already announced the establishment of humanitarian corridors in Eastern Ghouta."

"Now, it is the turn for the militants and their sponsors to act, militants entrenched there who still continue shelling Damascus, blocking aid deliveries and the evacuation of those wishing to leave."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, demanded that Russia, Iran and Turkey take responsibility for ending fighting in Syria and that they respect a genuine 30-day ceasefire.

In a letter to the three foreign ministries she urged them "to take all the necessary steps to ensure that the fighting stops, that the Syrian people are protected" and to allow free movement of aid groups and civilians.

France meanwhile called on Russia and Iran to exert "maximum pressure" on the Syrian government to implement the ceasefire.
Read more: North Korea is supplying chemical weapons to Syria: UN experts

Shaky ceasefire: Russia offered up the daily ceasefire as a compromise after the UN called for a 30-day truce across Syria. But with no civilians leaving during the daily ceasefire, humanitarian groups unable to funnel aid in during the short window, and frequent breakouts of violence, the truce appears to be wholly ineffective in helping the 400,000-odd civilians living in the area.

Rebel stronghold: Eastern Ghouta lies just outside Damascus and is home to about 400,000 residents. It also happens to be the last major opposition-controlled area near the capital, reportedly holding about 20,000 fighters. With signs of the Syria-wide conflict winding down, President Bashar Assad is attempting to consolidate territory across the country with the help of Russia to secure its interests during peace talks.

Seven-year war: More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2011 following a government crackdown on protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for President Bashar Assad to step down. Since then, the conflict has evolved into a multifaceted war, drawing in global superpowers, neighboring countries and non-state actors.

aw/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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