Iran says Damascus suburbs assault to continue after U.N. ceasefire call

From Reuters - February 25, 2018

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran said pro-Damascus forces would press ahead with attacks on an insurgent enclave near the Syrian capital, as ground fighting raged on there following a U.N. resolution demanding a 30-day truce across the country.

Rebels said they clashed with pro-government forces in the early hours of Sunday, as rescuers and residents said warplanes struck some towns in the eastern Ghouta enclave.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes and shelling killed seven people and injured 31 in the eastern Damascus suburbs. The UK-based monitoring group said Sundays bombing was less intense than attacks over the past week.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri, whose government backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Tehran and Damascus would respect the U.N. resolution.

But the Iranian military chief of staff also said the truce did not cover parts of the Damascus suburbs held by the terrorists, the Tasnim news agency.

Several ceasefires have unraveled quickly during the seven-year war in Syria, where Assads military has gained the upper hand with the help of Iran and Russia.

The U.N. resolution on Saturday followed seven straight days of bombing by pro-government forces on eastern Ghouta, in one of the bloodiest offensives of the war.

The Security Council voted unanimously to demand the truce to allow for aid access and medical evacuations. Yet while Moscow supported adopting the resolution, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cast doubt on its feasibility.

The resolution does not cover militants from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the Nusra Front.

Baqeri said Iran and Syria would adhere to it. But parts of the suburbs of Damascus, which are held by the terrorists, are not covered by the ceasefire and clean-up (operations) will continue there, Tasnim quoted him as saying.

The latest escalation by Damascus and its allies has killed more than 500 people in the enclave over the last week, the Observatory says. The dead included more than 120 children.

The Syrian government and Russia deny hitting civilians. Moscow and Damascus have said they seek to stop mortar attacks by militants injuring dozens in the capital.


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