Aid trucks wait to enter Ghouta as fighting continues

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DOUMA (AFP) – Syrian and Russian forces kept up military pressure on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta yesterday as their controversial unilateral truce failed to yield a humanitarian breakthrough.

More than 40 trucks loaded with aid were unable to reach the 400,000 people living in the battered enclave, prompting fresh calls for a UN ceasefire to be implemented.

A five-hour daily “pause” announced by Moscow on Monday has led to a reduction in the bombardment that killed hundreds in only a few days and sparked global outrage last month.

But the humanitarian corridor offered by Russia for civilians to flee remained ostensibly empty for a third day running, with distrust running high on both sides.

The only civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta this week were a septuagenarian Pakistani man who moved to Syria 44 years ago and his wife, according to the local Red Crescent.

Syrian aircraft carried out strikes yesterday before the 9:00 am start of the truce, killing seven civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ground battles were also taking place in Al-Shaifuniyah which lies in the enclave’s northeastern region and has been extensively destroyed in recent days. A spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defence volunteer rescuers, known as the “White Helmets”, said access to the area had been very difficult.

Air strikes have eased compared with last week when the joint Syrian and Russian aerial campaign against Eastern Ghouta killed up to 100 civilians a day.

But the death toll for the assault launched on February 18 continued to mount even after Russia’s humanitarian pause kicked in, as rescuers found bodies they had been unable to access.

The Russian daily pause falls far short of a 30-day truce voted by the United Nations on Saturday.

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