Russia says it will establish a humanitarian corridor and implement a five-hour daily truce in Syria’s eastern Ghouta, after a UN Security Council resolution demanded a 30-day ceasefire across the entire country.
Over the past week Syria’s army and its allies have subjected the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta near Damascus to one of the heaviest bombardments of the seven-year war, killing hundreds.
On Sunday health authorities 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.
Fighting has raged across Syria since Saturday’s resolution, as Turkey presses its offensive against a Kurdish militia in Afrin, rival rebel groups fight each other in Idlib and a US-led coalition targets Islamic State in the east.
Russia’s defence minister was cited by the RIA news agency as saying President Vladimir Putin had ordered a daily ceasefire in eastern Ghouta from 9am to 2pm each day and for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow civilians to leave.
Russia, along with Iran and Shi’ite militias, is a major backer of Syrian President 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.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop later made fresh calls for a political solution for war-ravaged Syria after Australia took its place on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“We joined in the condemnation… of the acts particularly in Ghouta,” Ms Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
On Sunday, health authorities 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.
“It is absolutely abhorrent that chemical weapons should be used in any circumstance,” Ms Bishop said.