UN Panel Links Russia to Potential War Crime in Syria

Abu Mohammad Alaya 50 is helped out from shelter in Douma in eastern Ghouta on Feb. 22

The Syrian army and allied militia launched an offensive on February 18 to retake Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-controlled region near the capital Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed dire assessments of the humanitarian situation in the enclave as "ridiculous lies".

Government forces open a Russian-backed campaign against Eastern Ghouta with more than 260 rockets and intense air raids.

Russian Federation has offered rebel fighters in Eastern Ghouta safe exit from the region if they agree to surrender their enclave to government forces, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Syria, said most of the aid from a 46-truck convoy was delivered to the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta but the mission was cut short before the rest of the supplies could be unloaded.

But anti-government groups holding out in eastern Ghouta say they will not be swayed by psychological tactics. Military operations to beat back government attempts to advance into and capture Misraba were "ongoing", he added.

She said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "highly focused" on the Eastern Ghouta situation in regular talks with counterparts.

The Syrian forces captured farms southeast of the towns of Rihan and Housh al-Ashary reaching the outskirts of the town of Mesraba, which is a strategic town due to its location as it links several towns and areas in Eastern Ghouta with one another, the source said, on condition of anonymity.

Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that it came at a "very dark moment in this conflict" as fighting intensifies in Idlib, Afrin and Ghouta.

The United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ali al-Za'tari sent the letter to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Tuesday according to a copy seen by Reuters.

A boy stands on the rubble of a damaged building at the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria March 5, 2018.

"It shows what a farce this de-escalation zone has become", Nauert said.

The United States has made its strongest accusation to date of Moscow's complicity in civilian deaths in Syria, saying Russian aircraft flew bombing missions over the besieged eastern Ghouta region in defiance of a United Nations ceasefire.

And three US -led coalition strikes on a school near Raqqa in March 2017 killed 150 residents - roughly five times the toll acknowledged by the Pentagon, which said at the time that dozens of militants and not civilians were killed.

Turkey sent troops into the Afrin enclave on January 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers to be terrorists.

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