BEIRUT – The morning calm that prevailed in a rebel-held enclave near Damascus as a Russian-backed ceasefire came into force on Tuesday following days of relentless bombardment by the Syrian government has been interrupted by fresh rocket fire and airstrikes, the United Nations and activists said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin requested that his regional ally Bashar al-Assad reel in his government’s bombing campaign on Eastern Ghouta for a period of five hours daily, effectively undermining a United Nations Security Council resolution to implement a 30-day ceasefire across the entirety of Syria.
“Fighting continues this morning, that is what our reports from Eastern Ghouta tell us,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian office in Geneva at a press conference. “So, quite a bleak assessment of the situation right now, in the wake of the Security Council resolution.”
He said UN humanitarian convoys were mobilized and ready to provide aid to the blockaded zone as soon as the situation allowed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based watchdog, said warplanes carried out airstrikes and helicopters dropped barrel bombs over the region despite the order to halt hostilities, resulting in the death of one minor.
Over 500 people were killed in Eastern Ghouta in the week leading up to the fragile truce as Assad’s regime and his allies ramped up a military campaign against the rebel-controlled territory by deploying an almost incessant barrage of shells, missiles and aerial attacks in what was one of the most violent episodes of the Syrian Civil War so far.
Much of the civilian infrastructure in cities like Douma was pummeled into ruin by the tirade and medical supplies in the few field hospitals that remain in operation are running dry after four years of government siege.
Eastern Ghouta is mere kilometers away from Damascus, the heart of the Assad regime.
The UN has requested that humanitarian corridors be created to evacuate the sick and wounded as well as to provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to the roughly 400,000 people trapped in Eastern Ghouta.