Russia orders five-hour daily truce in Ghouta; 22 killed in fresh strikes

DOUMA: Russia called a daily “humanitarian pause” in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, bowing to international pressure to halt the carnage in the rebel-held enclave where fresh strikes claimed more civilian lives .
A UN Security Council resolution for a 30-day truce had remained a dead letter since it was passed , and Moscow, the Syrian regime’s main backer, ended up setting its own terms to stem one of the worst episodes of bloodletting in Syria’s seven-year-old conflict.
The United Nations, France and Germany had made pressing appeals for Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand its Damascus ally enforce a ceasefire, including in Eastern Ghouta where more than 500 civilians were killed last week.
He eventually agreed to a five-hour daily window that would allow residents of the battered enclave east of the capital to come out of the underground shelters they have been cowering in. “On the instructions of the Russian president, with the goal of avoiding civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta, from Feb 27 … from 9:00 to 14:00 there will be a humanitarian pause,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
According to a statement, he said there should be similar pauses in the southern Al-Tanf border region and Rukban, near the Jordanian border.
Shoigu said “humanitarian corridors” would be opened to allow civilians to leave, adding that their locations would soon be divulged.
UN chief Antonio Guterres had expressed frustration with the lack of results the resolution yielded and stressed Monday in Geneva: “Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It is high time to stop this hell on earth.”
The intensity of the bombardment on Eastern Ghouta had eased somewhat over the weekend but deadly strikes and shelling never stopped.
Among the latest victims were nine members of the same family killed when their home in Douma, the main town in the enclave, collapsed on their heads.
“Nine civilians from the same family were killed in regime air strikes in Douma, after midnight,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring organisation. “Some of the bodies are still stuck in the rubble,” he said.

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