According to a United Nations commission of inquiry on war crimes report released on Tuesday, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are likely to have used chemical arms on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Aid agencies said they were negotiating security guarantees ahead of the mission.
The government, determined to wrest the eastern Ghouta suburbs from the control of rebels after seven years of war, has resorted to extreme levels of shelling and bombardment to clear the way for its troops to advance on the ground. Photo courtesy of Ghouta Media Center.
Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Syria, said Thursday's "convoy is postponed".
Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally, has offered rebels safe passage out with their families and personal weapons.
The fighting in eastern Ghouta has displaced more people inside the enclave.
Aiming to make Eastern Ghouta uninhabitable is also underscored by the series of chemical attacks on the area - deliberate attempts to make local residents feel that they have no choice but to flee.
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Worldwide humanitarian organizations have chose to postpone the humanitarian convoy towards eastern Ghouta originally scheduled on Thursday due to increasing attacks from militants, General Yury Yevtushenko, head of the Russian center for reconciliation in Syria, announced Thursday.
Almost half of the food aid could not be delivered while the United Nations said Syrian authorities removed some medical and health supplies from the trucks.
The toll includes at least 87 people killed on Wednesday.
It said at least 60 people were left struggling to breathe after air strikes and barrel bombs hit the towns of Saqba and Hammuriyeh.
Dyspnea is shortness of breath.
But the number of residents in Eastern Ghouta is twice that of East Aleppo before the 2016 campaign, which underscores the scale of the disaster in Eastern Ghouta today.
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Some of those affected by Wednesday's alleged attack received treatment at the scene of the strike because first response vehicles could not move due to "non-stop bombing".
Over those years, and in addition to ongoing attacks using conventional weapons, the area has witnessed multiple chemical weapons attacks that the Syrian government and Russian Federation persistently frame as being orchestrated by rebel groups, when all evidence emerging from the ground points the finger at the government and its allies.
The pro-Damascus commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, confirmed a report by the Observatory late on Wednesday that the enclave had effectively been sliced in two.
In tandem with the military operations in Eastern Ghouta, the army is securing the humanitarian corridor between the Wafidin area and Eastern Ghouta to allow civilians to leave toward government-run shelters. "Claims by the government of Syria that it is taking every measure to protect its civilian population are frankly ridiculous", he said.
Dramatic videos released by the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense on Wednesday showed rescuers digging away hard-packed rubble to rescue a dust-covered little boy and a baby girl in the town of Arbeen.
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