The Russian president has ordered a new ceasefire to allow civilians to exit one of Syria’s last rebel strongholds. The UN has urged warring parties to end hostilities to allow much-needed aid into devastated areas.

Russian warplane lands at Syria airbase

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered a daily “humanitarian pause” to airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to Russian news agencies.

The ceasefire comes amid calls from the international community to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities as the humanitarian situation worsens on the ground.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta?

What the ceasefire entails:

  • The ceasefire is aimed at establishing a “humanitarian corridor” to allow civilians to exit from Eastern Ghouta, considered one of Syria’s last rebel strongholds.
  • It will begin on Tuesday and last from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time (07:00 to 12:00 UTC), according to the order.
  • In agreement with the Syrian regime, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will help evacuate the sick and injured.

Massive casualties: Over the past week, more than 500 civilians have been killed by the Syrian government’s latest offensive in Eastern Ghouta. Russian warplanes formed an integral part of the offensive, according to independent monitors, rights groups and US authorities.

Why now: As the conflict winds down, Damascus is attempting to consolidate territory across the country with the help of Russia to secure its interests during peace talks.

Given that Eastern Ghouta is one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, the Syrian regime is seeking to strike a fatal blow to the opposition movement before peace talks gain ground.

Calls for ceasefire: With a growing civilian death toll, the international community has urged all warring parties to enact a nationwide ceasefire. On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire.

Better than nothing: Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, responded to the announcement, saying: “Five hours is better than no hours but we would like to see any cessation of hostilities be extended.”

Seven-year war: More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict emerged in 2011 following a government crackdown on protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Since then, the conflict has evolved into a multifaceted war, drawing in global superpowers, neighboring countries and non-state actors.

Read more: The search for dead Russian mercenaries in Syria

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ls/aw (Reuters, AFP)



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