Despite a United Nations Security Council-sanctioned 30-day ceasefire in Syria, clashes continue in the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, raising the prospect of yet another humanitarian disaster in the war-torn country. Regime forces have been pummeling the rebel-held territory with air strikes and shelling for over a week, killing more than 500 civilians and wounding some 2,500 others; this, in an effort to flush out opposition fighters ahead of an anticipated ground operation to recapture the enclave. The ongoing violence has so far prevented aid from reaching some 400,000 people who remain trapped in the area, a violation of a central precondition outlined in the UN resolution passed over the weekend. “If ever there was a question of life and death, we need a cessation of hostilities in Syria as the Security Council demands,” asserted Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. Given the prevailing conditions, Russia on Tuesday attempted, unsuccessfully, to impose a five-hour “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in Eastern Ghouta, with a second-go at forging a “mini-truce” slated to come into effect Wednesday at 7am GMT.
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