No let-up in Syria violence


Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:229 killed in rebel area near Damascus in four daysUNSC fails to back aid groups’ appeal for truce Turkey resumes air strikes on Kurdish forces in Afrin France demanded an end to air strikes in Syria yesterday as warplanes mounted further attacks on a rebel stronghold near Damascus where a war monitor said government bombardments have killed 229 people, the deadliest week in the area since 2015.

President Bashar al-Assad, who has seized a clear advantage in the war with Russian and Iranian help, is hammering two of the last key rebel pockets of Syria – the Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus and Idlib in the northwest near the Turkish border.

In the Eastern Ghouta residents described one of the most extensive bombing campaigns of the war, with multiple towns being hit simultaneously and people driven into shelters for days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 75 people died on Thursday, three of wounds suffered the previous day.

The multi-sided conflict is raging on other fronts too, with Turkey waging a big offensive in a Kurdish-controlled area of northwestern Syria, the Afrin region, where Ankara is targeting Kurdish militia forces it sees as a threat to its security. The strikes killed seven combatants and two civilians, sources said.

Diplomacy is making no progress towards ending a war now approaching its eighth year, having killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes, with millions forced out as refugees.

UN aid officials appealed for a month-long humanitarian truce to allow aid to be delivered and the sick and wounded brought out for treatment.

But on Thursday the Security Council failed to support the proposal.

Washington backed it but Damascus ally Moscow dismissed it as “not realistic.”

The two governments also crossed swords over US-led air strikes that hit forces allied to the Damascus regime in eastern Syria late Wednesday and early Thursday.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the coalition acted in self-defence after pro-Damascus forces moved on an area under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

At least 100 pro-regime fighters were killed, a US military official said.

The Syrian foreign ministry condemned the bombardment as a “war crime,” an accusation echoed by the Russian ambassador to the UN.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the Syrian peace process by phone yesterday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Putin spoke by telephone on Thursday and agreed to strengthen military and security service coordination in Syria, according to the Kremlin.

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