Syria's entire territory must be cleansed of terrorists in coming months

Howard TerryMar 01, 2018

First responders in eastern Ghouta rushed to look for survivors after air raids on Beit Sawa and Saqba, said the Civil Defence service which operates in rebel territory.

The UN Security Council has unanimously voted in favour of a 30-day-long ceasefire across war-torn Syria, but it remains to be seen if this will provide any breakthrough in the long-running conflict.

Moscow began military operations against terrorist groups in Syria at the request of Damascus in September 2015.

The Syrian regime says it is targeting terrorists inside the enclave, as the draft resolution stated the cease-fire doesn't apply to operations against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Nusra Front.

He added that another concern of Moscow was that resolution was not used as a pretext to launch an invasion of Syria.

Jaish al-Islam said it was "committed to protecting humanitarian convoys" but warned it would "immediately respond to any violation".

Syria's northern neighbour had previously been a staunch supporter of rebel groups fighting government forces.

"This has been the calmest night since last Sunday", said Rami Abdurrahman who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, referring to the start of the bombing campaign on February 19.

But all three rebel groups have refused.

Reports said the sponsors of the resolution, Kuwait and Sweden, amended the text to get Russian support, dropping a demand that the truce take effect in 72 hours and stating "without delay" instead.

Iran, whose Revolutionary Guards and militiamen are fighting alongside Mr Assad's forces, said it and Syria would respect the United Nations resolution.

Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta is the last rebel-held area east of Damascus and has been a target of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces since 2013 in a bid to drive the rebels out.

The Security Council's resolution, which passed 15-0, demands "all parties cease hostilities" for at least 30 days throughout Syria to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the critically sick and wounded. However, the United Nations resolution is seen as something of a diplomatic victory for the U.S. and its partners over Russia's efforts to tone down the wordings of the draft.

More than 1,000 civilians, including children and women, have been killed since mid-November in attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies including Russian Federation in besieged Eastern Ghouta, according to a U.K-based human rights watchdog. The UK-based monitoring group said Sunday's bombing was less intense than attacks over the past week.

Rebel sources in control of the enclave were resisting the attacks, Bin Javid reported, saying the fighters struggled to hold their positions on multiple fronts.

About 520 civilians have died and more than 2,500 have been wounded in Ghouta since a relentless barrage of regime rocket fire, shelling and airstrikes began last Sunday.

It will be up to Russian Federation to use its influence with Assad to enforce the cease-fire, which would allow desperately needed deliveries of emergency supplies and medical evacuations of the seriously injured and sick.

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