United Nations chief wants Syria ceasefire 'immediately'

The UN is due to vote on a ceasefire

The UN is due to vote on a ceasefire

The two major rebel factions in Syria's eastern Ghouta welcomed on Saturday a United Nations resolution demanding a 30-day truce across the country to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

Speaking in the Council after the vote, United States Permanent Representative Nikki Haley lashed out at Russian Federation saying that during the time it held up the resolution to change a "few words and some commas", mothers lost their children to bombing and shelling.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nicky Haley called for the ceasefire to be implemented immediately, but said she was sceptical that Syria would comply.

New air strikes on the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Saturday took the civilian death toll from seven days of devastating bombardment to more than 500.

In another concession to Russian Federation, the draft also specifies that the ceasefire will not apply to operations against the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda, along with "individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated" with the blacklisted terror groups.

To avoid a Russian veto, Security Council members were forced to significantly water down the original text of the temporary ceasefire resolution. "There is no need to dig graves, we will be buried under our houses". A group in Syria showing their support were arrested and tortured by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, prompting thousands to protest.

However, the Syrian regime has also used the term "terror group" in reference to both Islamist militias and the rebel factions it is targeting in eastern Ghouta, suggesting the resolution could prove to be a dead letter.

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Around 400,000 people are in hiding as the Damascus suburbs have been pounded with shells, mortars and bombs since Sunday night.

Fighting has escalated there, as the Syrian military and its allied forces appear to be launching an all-out operation to retake the district, which is one of the last near Damascus still under control of the armed opposition.

"There were certainly changes made [to the resolution] on Thursday after the Security Council meeting", he said.

More than 520 people have been killed and 2,500 wounded since Sunday in the relentless bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, according to a statement from Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières. It says 513 civilians, including 127 children, have been killed over the past week.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the warring sides to honor the temporary truce.

Condemning the Syrian regime for targeting "its own people", Ms Merkel said: "The killing of children, the destruction of hospitals - all that amounts to a massacre that must be condemned and which must be countered with a clear no".

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