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UN calls for month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria

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UN calls for month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria

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The United Nations has called for a minimum month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria. The plea comes amid reports heavy air strikes have killed dozens in the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.

UN officials in Syria say an immediate halt to the fighting is imperative to allow aid deliveries and the evacuation of the sick and wounded. Seven areas of concern are listed, including the Kurdish-led Afrin region in the north, which is currently the target of a Turkish campaign.

“For the last two months we have not had a single (aid-delivery) convoy. This is really outrageous”, said assistant UN secretary-general and regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, Panos Moumtzis.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is, with the support of Iranian-backed militias and the Russian air force, pursuing military offensives against insurgents in his opponents’ last major strongholds in the west of the country.

War crimes experts within the organisation are, separately, investigating claims civilians have been targeted with chlorine gas bombs in in various rebel-held towns within the war-torn country. The government denies using chemical weapons.

An attack on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus is estimated to have killed between 53 and 63 people on Tuesday, while at least 30 are believed to have died in air strikes a day earlier.

Siraj Mahmoud, who heads up the Civil Defence rescue service in opposition-held rural Damascus told reporters:

“Today there is no safe area at all. This is a key point people should know: there is no safe space. […] Right now, we have people under rubble, the targeting is ongoing, warplanes on residential neighbourhoods.”

Damascus city is government-held. According to a rights group and Syrian state media, insurgent shelling in the capital has killed at least three people. In rebel-held Idlib, at least six people are reported to have died in the violence.