Five days after passing a resolution calling for an immediate 30-day cease-fire in Syria, the U.N. Security Council was told Wednesday that nothing has changed, particularly in the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
In a terse assessment, U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock responded with a simple “No” nearly a dozen times to council questions about whether the resolution had been implemented.
No humanitarian convoys had reached besieged areas, he said, no government permission had been received to cross military lines, no promised medical evacuations or civilian exits had taken place, and there had been no humanitarian improvement at all.
Instead, he reported, “More bombing. More fighting. More death. More destruction. More maiming of women and children. More hunger. More misery. More, in other words, of the same.”
At least 30 civilians had been killed in “airstrikes, barrel bombs and shelling” in Eastern Ghouta since passage of the resolution, Lowcock said, while 18 civilians, “including drivers of ambulances, women and children” had reported to health facilities “with difficulties breathing consistent with the use of chlorine. One child died as a result,” he said.
Lowcock finished his presentation with a question for the council: “When will your resolution be implemented?”
The measure passed unanimously Saturday following days of intense negotiations between the United States and Russia over whom it would apply to and when it would take effect.
In comments after the vote, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, blamed the Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran, for not taking responsibility for the urgency of the situation.
Syria has not officially acknowledged the resolution. On Monday, Russia said that Syrian forces would begin a five-hour daily pause in attacks on Eastern Ghouta to enable humanitarian operations.
Both Russia and Syria charge that the region, under siege for the past three years, is occupied by “terrorists” and attacks have continued.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that militants in Eastern Ghouta continued to shell areas of Damascus. “Are we going to tolerate this indefinitely?” Putin asked. “Of course not.”
Russia reported that nine Damascus residents had been injured by militant shelling over the past 24 hours.
Lowcock clearly placed the heaviest responsibility for the ongoing carnage on the Syrian government. Even as “hundreds of rockets” from the east “had reportedly fallen on Damascus” since Feb. 18, he said, “over 580 people” had been reported killed and “well over 1,000 injured” in government air and ground strikes on Eastern Ghouta over the same period, he said.
In other areas of Syria, the U.N. reported heavy ongoing fighting in Idlib, where the humanitarian response “is being stretched to its limits” as “fighting continues to kill and injure civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure, and result in large population movements.”
In the city of Raqqa, which the United States declared liberated from the Islamic State in October, Lowcock reported that “conditions remain unsafe for the return of displaced people,” with hundreds killed and wounded, largely due to unexploded mines and other ordnance.
“Medical and other essential services are absent and access for humanitarian workers to the city remains precariously limited because the conditions are so dangerous,” Lowcock said.