Syria: Despite UN Ceasefire, Regime Air Strikes Hit Besieged Eastern Ghouta
Just hours after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, regime air strikes pummeled the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. More than 500 locals have been killed and some 2,500 others wounded over the past week, as Syrian forces pounded the rebel-held area from the air and ground in the one of the fiercest offensives in the seven-years-long war. An estimated 400,000 civilians remain trapped in area, with rights groups warning of a major humanitarian catastrophe unless aid is allowed to reach the population. Despite the urgency of the situation, the UN vote was nevertheless delayed for 48 hours as the U.S. and Russia—the latter being a close ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad—sparred over the wording of the truce’s text. Among the points of contention were the time-frame for implementation (which Moscow evidently succeeded in postponing); a guarantee of immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to the district; and which groups would remain “fair game” during the ceasefire (while Islamic State and Al-Qa’ida-linked fighters can still be targeted, the Assad regime’s definition of “terrorist” differs greatly from the West’s and his forces have been accused of using previous temporary pauses in the battle to strike at anti-regime rebels). The diplomatic jockeying again evidences the complex political realities associated with the war, which have prevented the formulation of any long-lasting comprehensive deal to end the conflict.