UN Accuses Russia and US of Mass Civilian Deaths in Syria

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A convoy loaded with humanitarian supplies entered the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital city of Damascus for the first time since November 15, 2017.

An AFP reporter in Douma said warplanes were flying overhead and explosions could be heard even as the aid was being unloaded. "Civilians are caught in a tragic situation".

According to Tasnim dispatches, Syrian forces stepped up their attack against the terrorists on Tuesday in Eastern Ghouta and succeeded in retaking al-Muhammadiya town after heavy clashes with them.

Linda Tom, spokesperson for the UN's humanitarian coordination office OCHA in Syria, told AFP fighting and air strikes had continued during the convoy's deployment, "including on Douma city while the convoy was offloading".

Russian-backed regime troops have advanced steadily since launching an assault on the last major rebel stronghold near the capital on February 18.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 80 died and dozens more were wounded on Monday as government forces ignored the United Nations call and pressed their assault on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

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An air strike by a Russian aircraft using unguided weapons hit a market killing at least 84 people in Atareb, west of Aleppo, last November, while strikes by the US -led coalition killed 150 residents of a school holding displaced people near Raqqa in March 2017, their report said.

Late Monday, the Observatory reported 18 people suffered breathing difficulties following a strike by a military aircraft in Hammuriyeh, without being able to specify the cause of the illnesses. It carried enough food for approximately 27,500 of the area's estimated 400,000 population, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that up to 70 per cent of the medical supplies on board had been offloaded - a common practice in Syria's war. Based on video and images from the site, including of an unexploded bomb, investigators said the weapons used were the unguided OFAB-500 fragmentation bomb, which is manufactured by Russia, and the BeTAB-500 unguided bunker buster bomb, which the Russian air force has used multiple times in Aleppo. But once again, regime forces stripped this convoy of all the medicines and medical kits it was carrying. It accused the government of using "poison gas".

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. As President Macron said yesterday, we expect it to take real, concrete measures to bring an immediate halt to indiscriminate shelling and sieges against civilians.

Meanwhile, medical staff in Hammouriya in eastern Ghouta reported 12 people from two families were admitted to hospital with chlorine gas inhalation symptoms after a strike late on Monday night.

In remarks broadcast on state television on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his forces would push on.