UN urges month-long Syrian ceasefire to deliver emergency civilian aid

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The United Nations has demanded an immediate, month-long ceasefire in Syria in order to deliver critical humanitarian aid and medical care to civilians trapped by fighting in regions across the country.

The UN mission in Syria warned of “dire consequences” to the compounded humanitarian crises besetting the country, and identified seven areas requiring urgent humanitarian relief.

It said it is blocked from reaching them due to fighting and forces manning the front lines.

Syria’s multi-faceted war has drawn in armies and insurgents from around the world, aggravating a conflict which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule.

Though Mr Assad appears to have survived the insurgency, his forces continue to bomb and besiege opposition pockets around the country.

Meanwhile, Turkish operations against Syrian Kurdish forces, and US and Russian-backed operations against Islamic State, have compounded the suffering of Syrians in the country’s north and east.

The UN has a plan to reach 700,000 people with relief in the next two months, if it can obtain permission to proceed.

Syrian opposition activists said at least 16 people have been killed in new air strikes on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, a day after Russian and Syrian government forces battered rebel areas across the country in sweeping air raids.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five towns in the Eastern Ghouta region were hit by Russian or Syrian government air strikes on Tuesday morning.

The Observatory said 16 people were killed while the activist-run Ghouta Media Centre put the death toll at 17. Both groups say they expect their figures to rise.

The aerial campaign which began on Sunday night shows no signs of abating. The Syrian Civil Defence search-and-rescue group, which works in opposition areas, described it is “another bloody day for civilians” in Eastern Ghouta.

The Russian military has asked Turkey to help recover the debris of the Russian fighter jet that was shot down over a rebel-controlled part of Syria over the weekend.

Al-Qaida-linked militants said they downed the Russian Su-25 in the northern Idlib province on Saturday. Russian officials say the pilot engaged in a gun battle with militants before blowing himself up with a hand grenade.

The Russian defence ministry said it has asked Turkey to help recover the debris in order to establish the type of weapons the rebels used to shoot down the jet.

The plane was downed by a portable air defence missile in an incident which marked the first time a Russian jet was shot down over Syria since Russia launched its air campaign there in September 2015.

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