GENEVA – The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held enclave outside the Syrian capital Damascus where fresh bombing was reported early Friday despite a Russian-backed humanitarian pause in hostilities.
The inter-continental Geneva-based forum comprising 47 states was to debate on Friday the situation in Eastern Ghouta, an area home to around 400,000 that has been besieged by the Syrian regime since 2013 and was subjected to an exceptional period of violence last week that left over 600 people dead, prompting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire across all of Syria.
“Introducing the proposal, the United Kingdom called on the Council to act swiftly to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta, referring to the situation in Syria as one of the most prolific slaughter houses of modern time,” a statement from the United Nations Office at Geneva said. “The debate will conclude with the consideration of a draft resolution.”
The meeting received strong support from the United States, but was opposed by Venezuela, Cuba, China and South Africa, while Russia, a supporter of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, described it as “useless and counter-productive.”
A daily five-hour ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta that was drawn up by Russia has failed since it came into effect at the beginning of the week, with fresh bombings recorded early Friday, meaning aid convoys waiting to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies remained stationary.
Humanitarian corridors designed to evacuate civilians, especially those in need of medical attention, are also yet to be put into effect.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday it was providing aerial support to Syrian ground troops in an offensive against rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta.
“Provocations by illegal groups have made a large-scale counter-terror ground operation supported by the Russian and Syrian air forces in Eastern Ghouta essential and inevitable,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
She blamed the failed humanitarian pause on the rebel groups in the region.