Russian, US air strikes in Syria caused mass civilian deaths, United Nations says

Russian, US air strikes in Syria caused mass civilian deaths, United Nations says

The U.N. investigators, noting that efforts for the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) have stalled, due to Russian vetoes, welcomed national jurisdictions taking up more cases including against foreign fighters.

The UN Human Rights Council on Monday ordered investigators to examine the latest violence and condemned "the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments against civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta".

Last night, a representative for United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, who had entered the rebel-held enclave with a convoy of 46 trucks, said the mission was halted after nine hours.

A first aid convoy reached Eastern Ghouta on Monday but the operation was cut short as air strikes pounded the enclave, killing at least 68 civilians, according to a human rights monitor.

The Russian defense ministry has extended an offer to Syrians in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus, saying armed rebels with their families - not just civilians - can also leave eastern Ghouta through a safe corridor.

Despite the fact that as many as 400,000 people live in the city with scarce medical facilities and food, the regime has continued attacks and blocking the delivery of global aid.

While aid workers were still distributing the cargo in the town of Douma shelling from government-held neighbourhoods resumed, the IRCR confirmed on Tuesday, leading nine of the trucks to evacuate with supplies still on board.

Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against insurgents in eastern Ghouta, including chlorine three times in July, and in Harasta on the western edge of the zone in November, the report said.

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Moscow has been accused by weapons experts of using inaccurate munitions in the past in its campaign, but those accusations have been focused on the motivation that they are likely to be cheaper than precision-guided missiles.

The Kremlin responded on Tuesday, condemning what it called unfounded allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, insisting that the country's stockpile was destroyed under global supervision.

Za'tari said the convoy had been scaled back from providing food for 70,000 people to providing for 27,500.

On Sunday, government forces took control of several villages inside Eastern Ghouta, marking a major turning point in the offensive.

The government routinely removes lifesaving medical supplies from aid convoys, in a pattern of denying such aid to civilians living in opposition areas. Russian Federation has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, helping him turn the tide of the bloody civil war in his favor. It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered.

In the latest attempt to end the seven-year war, the foreign ministers of regime allies Iran and Russian Federation and rebel backer Turkey are to meet next week in Astana, Kazakhstan's top diplomatic envoy said on Tuesday.

At least 19 people were killed in the town of Hammuriyeh on Monday, the Observatory said.

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