Syria army intensifies fight against rebels in Eastern Ghouta


A war-monitoring group says Syrian government shelling and airstrikes killed 80 people in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day, making it the deadliest day there since the U.N.'s Security Council last month demanded a cease-fire across Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reports Syrian forces are engaged in heavy fighting with rebels, with many dead.

The Russian military official said Eastern Ghouta militants also regularly shell Russian diplomatic and trade missions in the Syrian capital. "Humanitarian aid has been instrumentalized as a weapon of war with siege warfare and denial of life-giving assistance used to compel civilian communities and parties to the conflict alike to surrender or starve", it said.

The Syrian American Medical Society charity, which supports hospitals in eastern Ghouta, said 79 people were killed in shelling and airstrikes, as the government, supported by Russia's military, pushed its assault on the rebel-held suburbs, where the United Nations estimates that close to 400,000 people are trapped under unmanageable levels of violence.

The offensive has been backed by Russian Federation, the government's key military ally.

She said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "highly focused" on the Eastern Ghouta situation in regular talks with counterparts.

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Despite the ceasefire resolution, Moscow and Damascus have not halted the campaign to retake eastern Ghouta, arguing that the fighters they are striking are members of banned terrorist groups unprotected by the truce.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) noted that 30 children have been killed by Turkish shelling in the Syrian region of Afrin, within the framework of Ankara's military operation against Kurdish forces in the Syrian region.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria has appealed to the government to commit to a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta on Thursday to let in an aid convoy containing medical supplies that were stripped from a delivery on Monday.

In their 15th report, published Tuesday, the investigators also accused a US-led coalition of breaching worldwide humanitarian law with a deadly strike a year ago on a school near the Islamic State group's former stronghold of Raqa. It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered. "The people sit with multiple families, with thousands of families in basement shelters", he said.

"Russia has gone on to ignore (a United Nations ceasefire's) terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counter-terrorism operations", the White House said in a statement.

After the implementation of the five-hour daily humanitarian pauses, Damascus tried to send dozens of trucks with aid to Eastern Ghouta, but the attempts were thwarted by the continuing shelling of the humanitarian corridor by jihadist groups.