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Syrian conflict

Death toll in Syria enclave tops 500 after UN delays truce vote

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 9:28pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 10:31pm

New air strikes on the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Saturday took the civilian death toll from seven days of devastating bombardment to more than 500 after the United Nations again delayed a vote on a ceasefire.

More than 120 children are said to have been among the dead in the bombing campaign that the government launched last Sunday on the enclave just outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitor of the war said at least 29 civilians were killed in Saturday’s strikes, including 17 in the main town of Douma.

It claimed the strikes were being carried out by Syrian and Russian forces.

Moscow has denied any direct involvement.

US President Donald Trump on Friday said Russia’s alleged actions in Syria were a “disgrace”.

The UN Security Council was due to vote on Friday on a resolution calling for a month-long ceasefire to allow aid deliveries and the evacuation of seriously wounded civilians.

But the vote was postponed until overnight on Saturday, as Western powers bickered with Russia over the wording.

Control of Eastern Ghouta is shared between two Islamist factions and Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate. Russia insists there can be no ceasefire with extremists or their allies.

Russia has been pressing for a negotiated withdrawal of rebel fighters and their families but all three rebel groups have refused.

The Western-backed rebels have been firing back into Damascus, where a hospital was hit on Friday, state news agency SANA reported.

At least 16 civilians have been killed in eastern districts of the capital since Sunday, according to state media, and many residents have sought temporary accommodation elsewhere for fear of a further intensification of the fighting.

Negotiations have stumbled over a key provision of the draft resolution that specifies when the ceasefire will begin.