Syrian govt launches assault in Ghouta despite truce

BEIRUT: Syrian government forces launched a ground assault on the edge of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave , seeking to gain territory despite a Russian plan for five-hour daily ceasefires, a war monitor and sources on both sides said.
Hundreds of people have died in 11 days of bombing of the eastern Ghouta, a swathe of towns and farms outside Damascus that is the last major rebel-held area near the capital. The onslaught has been one of the fiercest of the civil war, now entering its eighth year.
The UN Security Council, including President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest ally Russia, passed a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide ceasefire, but it has not come into effect, with Moscow and Damascus saying they are battling members of terrorist groups excluded from the truce.
Russia has instead called for daily five-hour local ceasefires to establish what it calls a humanitarian corridor so aid can enter the enclave and civilians and wounded can leave.
The first such truce took place but quickly collapsed when bombing and shelling resumed after a short lull.
There were no air strikes during Wednesday’s five-hour ceasefire, but heavy bombardment resumed in the afternoon, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported. There has been no sign of aid delivered to the besieged area.
Moscow and Damascus have accused rebels of shelling the corridor to prevent people leaving. Rebels deny this, and say people will not leave eastern Ghouta because they fear the government. A senior US general accused Moscow of acting as “both arsonist and firefighter” by failing to rein in Assad.
Wednesday’s ground assault targeted the Hawsh al-Dawahra area at the eastern edge of the rebel-held area.

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