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Syrian regime ignores Eastern Ghouta ceasefire, attempts to storm enclave

Hundreds of Syrians have died in a week of regime bombing. [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2018

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Regime airstrikes and artillery have been pounding the enclave near Damascus since 18 February, with at least 519 killed since the bombing campaign was launched.

Syria's regime carried out airstrikes on besieged Eastern Ghouta on Sunday despite a UN Security Council demand for a ceasefire as Assad-aligned militias attempted to storm the enclave.

The Security Council on Saturday unanimously demanded a 30-day ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations. The measure did not specify when the truce would go into force beyond saying it should be "without delay".

An Iranian military official said on Sunday that Iran and Syria would continue attacks on Eastern Ghouta but elsewhere respect the UN truce demand.

"We will adhere to the ceasefire resolution, Syria will also adhere. Parts of the suburbs of Damascus, which are held by the terrorists, are not covered by the ceasefire and clean-up [operations] will continue there," the semi-official news agency Tasnim quoted General Mohammad Baqeri as saying.

The strikes on Sunday morning included two on the outskirts of Douma, the main town in Eastern Ghouta, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rocket and artillery fire also hit at least three parts of Eastern Ghouta, including Douma, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

There were no immediate details on casualties but rebel groups in the area claimed on Twitter to have killed dozens of pro-regime troops.

Abdel Rahman said there were also clashes in the south of Eastern Ghouta between regime forces and fighters from the Jaish al-Islam rebel group. Fighting in the area is frequent so it was not immediately clear if the clashes represented a change on the ground.

A spokesman for Jaish al-Islam said that Assad militias had attempted to storm Eastern Ghouta during pitched battles with fighters from the group.

Regime airstrikes and artillery have been pounding the enclave near Damascus since 18 February, with at least 519 killed since the bombing campaign was launched, according to the Observatory. 

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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