New Straits Times
‘GHOUTA CAMPAIGN MUST GO ON’
People want to escape terrorism, says Assad; UN orders probe into situation
PRESIDENT Bashar alAssad said on Sunday his forces must push on with their campaign to retake the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta from rebels, despite mounting international calls to end the bloodshed.
Assad’s forces had seized over a quarter of the enclave on the eastern edges here after two weeks of devastating bombardment, according to a war monitor.
The United States, Britain and France had stepped up pressure on Damascus and Moscow to call off the assault.
“The majority (of people) in eastern Ghouta want to escape the embrace of terrorism. The operation must continue,” Assad said in remarks broadcast on state television.
Assad said civilians would have “the possibility” to evacuate the enclave, while denying there was any contradiction between a truce and ongoing fighting.
The US issued a statement on Sunday condemning the twoweek-old assault, and accusing Moscow of ignoring a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a 30-day cessation of hostilities. It said Russia had killed “innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations”.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council ordered an urgent investigation into the situation in eastern Ghouta and demanded immediate humanitarian access to the area.
The council voted in favour of a resolution calling on rights investigators to “urgently conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into recent events in eastern Ghouta”.
With 29 votes in favour, 14 abstentions and four opposed, the UN’s top rights body demanded immediate humanitarian access to the area where 400,000 residents had lived under siege from the regime since 2013.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said barrel bombs — crude, improvised munitions that cause indiscriminate damage — were used, including on the town of Hammuriyeh, where 10 people were killed.
The latest deaths brought to 709 the number of civilians killed since regime and allied Russian forces intensified their campaign against eastern Ghouta last month.