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Smoke rises over rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta in Syria Smoke rises over rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta in Syria  (AFP or licensors)

Artillery strikes disrupt Syrian ceasefire

The United Nations says fighting continued in Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, despite a brief five-hour daily truce ordered by Russia.

By Nathan Morley

A daily five-hour temporary ceasefire began on Tuesday, but first indications suggest Assad-government artillery strikes on Douma, Harasta and Misraba continued unabated.

For their part, the Russian government accused the rebels of firing mortars on routes earmarked for evacuations, as the violence derailed all aid deliveries and medical evacuations.

"Clearly, the situation on the ground is not such that convoys can go in or medical evacuations can go out," a UN spokesman in Geneva said.

On Saturday the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire in order to allow humanitarian aid to be ferried in, which was followed by Russia ordering a brief five-hour daily truce.

Last week Syrian government forces launched an operation to take control of Eastern Ghouta. Since then, missiles and artillery strikes have hit a string of targets across the region, killing over 500 people – including many women and children.

The area is the only big rebel bastion close to the capital Damascus.

Prior to the conflict, Eastern Ghouta was home to about two million people but the seven-year long war has since reduced the population to about 400,000.

Last week Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, described Eastern Ghouta as being like "hell on Earth". Numerous efforts to end the war in Syria, which began in 2011, have failed.

Report by Nathan Morley
27 February 2018, 16:57