Explosions light the night sky after regime airstrikes on Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta on Monday. Photo: Mohammed Eyad/AFP
UNITED NATIONS, New York – “Syria is bleeding inside and out,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council as the body discussed on Monday another attempt to bring some cessation of hostilities to the Syrian conflict that is this week entering its eighth year.
Global powers calling for a ceasefire in Syria maintain that the truce would apply to Turkey’s operation in Afrin, but still express their understanding of Turkey’s security concerns.
“In Afrin, we've also called for de-escalation, for humanitarian aid delivered – and I believe there have been deliveries of humanitarian aid – for protection of civilians and, for as much as possible, de-escalation. And we continue to do so. But we recognize Turkey's right to defend itself as well,” Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires at the UN, said on Monday as the UN Security Council met to discuss a proposed new resolution for a humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.
Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s representative to the UN, called Turkey’s operation on Afrin an “occupation” and “aggression.”
He said that Damascus approved an aid convoy for Afrin two days ago, but Turkey has not given its assurances to the UN regarding security.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent announced on Sunday that it is working with the United Nations to prepare a second humanitarian aid convoy to deliver necessary assistance to Afrin and Tal Rafaat in “response to the increasing humanitarian needs.”
The first convoy of 29 trucks delivered food, clothing, winter supplies, medical supplies, and water materials for 50,000 people on March 1. Local media reported that the convoy came under fire when it entered Afrin.
More than 200 civilians have been reported killed in Afrin since Turkey launched its operation on January 20.
In Eastern Ghouta, at least 1,162 civilians have been killed, according to a conflict monitor, in the regime’s ongoing offensive on the rebel-held enclave. And more than 35 civilians have been killed in rebel fire on government-controlled areas. Regime forces have taken some 60 percent of the enclave since mid-February, AFP reported.
Two weeks ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2401 that called for a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire to allow delivery of aid and evacuation of the wounded.
Guterres lamented the failure of that truce to take hold in Eastern Ghouta, Afrin, and parts of Idlib and Damascus.
He said he was “disappointed” with the repeated failure of all those who have not brought the war to an end, “by action or inaction, by design or indifference.”
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre accused Damascus of “deliberately” continuing its operations with the help of Russia and Iran.
“Let’s be clear about it, civilians are not collateral damage of this offensive, they are the target,” he said.
Presenting a new ceasefire resolution, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it would give “no room for evasion.”
Recalling that the United States “successfully struck” a Syrian airbase last year after a chemical weapon attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Haley said “We repeat that warning today… the United States is prepared to act if we must.”
Russia, the main backer of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the operation ongoing in Eastern Ghouta does not contradict the UN resolution and accused western countries of “not doing anything” to resolve the situation, just making “endless accusations against Russia.”
“That this is being done is a political line. It is caused not only, and not so much, by concern about the Syrians’ humanitarian needs,” said Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, Interfax reported.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war.