Pope says Syria being 'martyred,' urges humanitarian aid for Ghouta

He called for an immediate end to violence and access to humanitarian aid.

February 25, 2018 13:32
1 minute read.
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the US World War II cemetery.

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the US World War II cemetery.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Sunday said Syria was being "martyred" by continued attacks killing civilians in the eastern Ghouta district, calling for an immediate end to violence and access to humanitarian aid.

"All this is inhuman," Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his weekly blessing. He spoke hours after the U.N. adopted a resolution demanding a 30-day truce across Syria to allow aid access and medical evacuation.

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The U.N. Security Council resolution on Saturday followed seven straight days of bombing by pro-government forces on the besieged eastern suburbs, in one of the deadliest offensives of the war.
UN approves Syria ceasefire, but who will listen?, February 25, 2018 (Reuters)

The Council voted unanimously to demand the truce to allow for aid access and medical evacuations. Yet while Moscow supported adopting the resolution, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cast doubt on its feasibility.

The ceasefire resolution does not include militants from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the Nusra Front.

Baqeri said Iran and Syria would adhere to it. But "parts of the suburbs of Damascus, which are held by the terrorists, are not covered by the ceasefire and clean-up (operations) will continue there," Tasnim quoted him as saying.

The latest escalation by Damascus and its allies has killed more than 500 people in the enclave over the last week, the Observatory has said. The dead included more than 120 children.

Air strikes and shelling on Sunday killed four people in eastern Ghouta and injured 27 others, it said.

The Syrian government and Russia deny hitting civilians. Moscow and Damascus have said they seek to stop mortar attacks by militants injuring dozens in the capital.

The United Nations says nearly 400,000 people live in eastern Ghouta, a pocket of satellite towns and farms under government siege since 2013. It is the only remaining big rebel bastion near Syria's capital.

Jaish al-Islam, one of the two major Islamist factions in Ghouta, said fierce battles raged on along several frontlines of Sunday.

Hamza Birqdar, the military spokesman, said the insurgents had thwarted attacks by pro-government forces trying to advance. Rebels and troops have clashed with each others around the enclave in recent weeks.

Russia said it was counting on foreign supporters of anti-government forces in Syria to ensure that the ceasefire was observed, the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

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