On Saturday 24 February, the UN Security Council unanimously issued a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire resolution in Syria to provide medical support and food to civilians. The resolution faced opposition from the Russian delegation, as longtime supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deemed it unrealistic to have an immediate ceasefire.
The initial vote, initially scheduled for Friday, was thereby delayed to accommodate Russia’s demands. Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. tweeted, “Unbelievable that Russia is stalling a vote on a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access in Syria.”
Russia demanded the removal of the need for a specific time-frame. Consequently, the text now reads the ceasefire should be implemented “without delay” instead of the initial 72 hours requirement. In addition, the resolution does not include the Islamic state and al-Qaeda, who have been accused of supporting Syrian rebels. This loophole will give Russia the right to continue their bombings, according to Elizabeth Tsurkov of the Israeli think tank, the Forum for Regional Thinking.
According to SANA, in response to the ceasefire resolution Bashar Ja’afari, the Syrian UN Ambassador stated, “We practice a sovereign right of self-defense, and we will continue to fight terrorism wherever it is found on Syrian soil.”
The move came after one of the bloodiest weeks in Syria’s seven-year civil war which killed half a million people. Médecins Sans Frontières reported that over 520 people have died and thousands have been injured in a series of bombings last week in Eastern Ghouta, which were reminiscent of the fall of East Aleppo in 2016. NPR’s Lama Al-Arian said, “Airstrikes, artillery shells and barrels filled with TNT are being dropped on neighbourhoods that are heavily populated by civilians who have no way to escape.”
The bombings, which targeted medical facilities in particular, left doctors and rescuers overwhelmed, and in response, several makeshift hospitals sprung up in the region.
Louisa Loveluck, a reporter from Washington Post Middle East said, “The stories we’ve heard from residents this week are among the worst we’ve heard during the entire war.” She also went on to note that, “the area is so under-equipped that doctors are left in a position to choose who lives and who dies because they don’t have the resources to treat everyone.”
CNN recently reported that most of the people who have been killed include children, women and the elderly. This claim was corroborated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which determined that around 120 children are dead. The UN’s Children’s Fund expressed their shock, stating, “no words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones”.
The escalation in bombardment is due to a push from President Assad to finally put an end to the forces working against him. However, authorities and activists from around the world, such as Staffan de Mistura, a UN Syria envoy, fear a repeat of the fight in Aleppo and believe the war is far from over.