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359 civilians killed in 2 weeks of Syrian airstrikes on Ghouta

24 February 2018

Permanent U.N. Security Council member Russian Federation has so far opposed a West-backed initiative to end the violence in eastern Ghouta region outside the Syrian capital for 30 days, arguing that the US has declined to amend the draft resolution in a way that would allow fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-the successor to former Al-Qaeda branch the Nusra Front-to still be targeted.

Syrian regime air strikes and artillery fire hit the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta for a sixth straight day on Friday killing 38 civilians as the world struggled to reach a deal to stop the carnage.

The UN Security Council has postponed a vote on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, till Saturday, said Kuwaiti ambassador to the United Nations, Mansour Al-Otaibi. These are civilians. They are ordinary people under attack by a barbaric Assad regime that is bent on leaving eastern Ghouta levelled to the ground, with no regard for the 400,000 men, women, and children who live there,  she added.

"We are still working on language on some of the paragraphs, but we are nearly there", council president Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters mid-day Friday.

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More than 460 civilians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in the six-day offensive on the rebel-held enclave, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 400,000 Syrians are living in "hell on Earth".

Al-Otaibi said negotiations were centered on the language of one paragraph that specifically demands a cessation of hostilities for 30 days, possibly starting 72 hours after adoption, to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

Negotiations have also stumbled over Russian demands that rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces comply with the truce.

The civilian casualties and devastation there are among the worst in Syria since the government captured rebel-held parts of Aleppo in intense fighting in 2016.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging him to back a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in Syria, France's presidency said.

"For now, they refuse to accept an amendment which will place responsibility on them to ensure that the militants give clear guarantees to stop the shelling", Lavrov was quoted as saying. Russia, Iran and Syria have accused the USA of shielding the jihadis and rebels that once received Central Intelligence Agency backing.

Doctors Without Borders said 13 of the facilities it supports in Eastern Ghouta were damaged or destroyed in airstrikes this week.

Mr Skoog said earlier: "It is about saving lives".

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Meanwhile, Russian news reports said Moscow has sent more warplanes to Syria, including its latest Su-57 fighter jets. "The whole E [elected] 10 members, we are here just to show that we are all united and we want the draft to be adopted today at 2:30 p.m.", he said.

359 civilians killed in 2 weeks of Syrian airstrikes on Ghouta