nsucurrent.com March 17, 2018

Nine civilians killed as Syria regime strikes shake Ghouta

07 March 2018, 12:07 | Colleen Roy

France urges Russia, Iran to reason with Damascus

International aid convoy sets off for Eastern Ghouta

Living underground has become the norm in the rebel-held enclave of 400,000, with some families in basements for the past month, some containing 200 people, said Christophe Boulierac of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, said nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening.

The International Committee for the Red Cross also confirmed that its joint convoy with the United Nations had to leave before offloading all its supplies on account of the deteriorating security situation Monday.

Monday's shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta amid weeks of a crippling siege and a government assault that has killed hundreds.

A significant number of civilians in Syria were killed by Russian and US -led coalition air strikes a year ago, according to a new report from United Nations war crimes investigators.

Regime ally Russian Federation last week announced a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" in Eastern Ghouta, during which it said it would guarantee safe passage to civilians wishing to flee the enclave.

At least nine civilians were killed in air strikes on the town of Jisreen early on Tuesday, the Britain-based Observatory said.

And three USA -led coalition strikes on a school near Raqqa in March 2017 killed 150 residents - roughly five times the toll acknowledged by the Pentagon, which said at the time that dozens of militants and not civilians were killed.

The 46 aid trucks arrived after fresh air strikes hit the shrinking rebel-held zone and regime troops rapidly advanced, leaving them in control of 40 percent of the region.

It reported clashes on 6 March in the northeast, centre and southeast of the enclave.

Essential aid deliveries to tens of thousands of besieged civilians were cut short on Monday as the regime pounded the region.

An AFP reporter in Douma said warplanes were flying overhead and explosions could be heard even as the aid was being unloaded. The Observatory reported 18 people suffered breathing difficulties, without attributing a cause.

The investigators also spoke of allegations of chemical weapons use in the enclave, saying they had "reasonable grounds to believe that government forces used chemical weapons" in an attack on Harasta on November 18.

"The use of chemical weapons is prohibited under customary worldwide humanitarian law regardless of the presence of a valid military target, including when used against enemy fighters", it said.

"The provocations are continuing that spawn such insinuations and unfounded accusations against the Syrian leadership", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

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