Hundreds killed, including women and children, in one week as Syrian regime forces and its allies carried out the heaviest bombardment of the year in Syria's rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta.

Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, on February 21, 2018.
Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, on February 21, 2018. (Reuters)

A UN resolution calling for a 30-day truce as well as a daily five-hour "humanitarian pause" called for by Russia's President Vladimir Putin failed to halt the war in Syria as at least another 30 people were killed in Syria's rebel held enclave of eastern Ghouta.

"The United Nations has mobilised and is ready to immediately support life-saving aid convoys to several areas in eastern Ghouta as soon as conditions allow, as well as hundreds of medical evacuations," Linda Tom, a UN humanitarian spokeswoman in Damascus, said in emailed comments.

She said at least 30 people, including women and children, had been killed in Syria’s besieged eastern Ghouta in the past 48 hours, while shelling on Damascus continues from the rebel-held enclave.

TRT World 's Ben Tornquist reports. 

The Syrian regime unleashed a new round of daily air strikes on Damascus' suburb on February 18, killing at least 556 civilians since then.

Its deadly campaign to root out rebels controlling the area, already hit hard by a five-year government siege, has provoked an international outcry and demands for a truce.

'Humanitarian corridor'

Russia will establish a humanitarian corridor and implement a five-hour daily truce in Syria's eastern Ghouta, it said on Monday, after a UN Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across the entire country.

On Sunday health authorities there said several people had suffered symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure and on Monday rescue workers and a war monitor said seven small children were killed by air and artillery strikes in one town.

"Eastern Ghouta cannot wait, it is high time to stop this hell on earth," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for implementation of the ceasefire.

TRT World spoke to Jessica King in Moscow.

Fighting has raged across Syria since Saturday's resolution, as Turkey presses its offensive against the YPG in Afrin, rival rebel groups fight each other in Idlib and a US-led coalition targets Daesh in the east.

Russia's defence minister was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying President Vladimir Putin had ordered a daily ceasefire in eastern Ghouta from 0700 GMT to 1200 GMT (9:00am to 2:00pm) each day and for the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to leave.

Russia, along with Iran and Shia militias, is a major backer of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, and it joined the war on his side in 2015, helping him claw back important areas.

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, did not say whether the Syrian government or other allied forces had agreed to abide by the five-hour daily truce.

Mohamad Alloush, the political chief of one of eastern Ghouta's biggest rebel factions, said the Syrian army and its allies had launched "a sweeping ground assault" after the UN resolution, adding it was vital that the truce be implemented.

"We hope for real, serious, practical action." he said.

Unverified deaths

A picture issued by Civil Defence rescue workers, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed seven small bodies lying next to each other, wrapped in white and blue sheets, after air and artillery strikes on the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said four of them were among a single family of nine killed by an air strike. The other three were among seven killed by shelling in the same town, it said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said allegations the Syrian government was responsible for any chemical attack – after reports of people suffering symptoms of chlorine gas poisoning – were aimed at sabotaging the truce.

The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons in the war, which will soon enter its eighth year having killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half of Syria's pre-war population of about 23 million from their homes.

The bombardment of eastern Ghouta over the past week has been one of the heaviest of the war, killing at least 556 people in eight days, according to a toll compiled by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor.

The intensity of the bombardment has diminished since the UN resolution, the observatory said, but it added that 21 people had been killed in eastern Ghouta on Monday, including the seven small children in the photograph.

Rebel shelling has caused 36 deaths and a number of injuries in Damascus and nearby rural areas in the last four days, Zaher Hajjo, a government health official, told Reuters.

Speaking in Riyadh, deputy director general of the World Health Organization, Peter Salama, said the WHO urgently needed to evacuate 750 medical cases from eastern Ghouta.

"We also need sustained access for medical equipment and for medical drugs and commodities," he said, adding that some supplies had been "systematically removed from convoys."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies