United Nations demands Syria ceasefire as air strikes pound rebel areas

Russian police officers patrol the Manezh Square at the Kremlin in Moscow Russia

Sieges in the rebel-held Damascus enclave of eastern Ghouta "involve the global crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population", Paulo Pinheiro, head of the worldwide Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

Bashar al-Assad's regime, backed by the Russian military, have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the country's last rebel-held areas in Ghouta and Idlib in recent weeks in an attempt to annihilate the last remaining rebel fighters.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman added that few rebels were among the dead because they rarely left their tunnels and had better protection from air strikes than civilians, estimated to number around 400,000 in Ghouta.

Paulo Pinheiro, head of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said the government siege of Eastern Ghouta featured "the international crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population".

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"But so are they" he said, meaning the Assad regime.

While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Syrian regime officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000.

Iran urged Turkey on Monday to halt its two-week-old military offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria's Afrin region, which is adjacent to Idlib.

The Secretary noted last month in Paris that Russian Federation ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russian Federation became involved in Syria.

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"The Syrian army calls up new air defenses and anti-aircraft missiles to areas on the frontlines with the militants in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib", the commander told Reuters. "We can not hope to end the use of chemical weapons if those who use them escape the consequences of their action".

Syrian government forces are waging an offensive into rebel-held Idlib province, which borders the Afrin region to the west and is the largest chunk of Syria still in insurgent hands.

Insurgent shelling of government-held Damascus killed three people, the observatory and Syrian state media reported. On the basis of its results, Russia, Iran and Turkey coordinated terms of holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress on January 29-30 in Sochi.

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