The Latest: DM: Putin orders daily pauses in Syria’s Ghouta


The Latest: DM: Putin orders daily pauses in Syria's Ghouta

The Associated Press
This photo released on Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows members of the Syrian Civil Defense group carrying a young man who was wounded during airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces, in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. A new wave of airstrikes and shelling on eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus left at least 22 people dead and more than a dozen wounded Saturday, raising the death toll of a week of bombing in the area to nearly 500, including scores of women and children. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says President Vladimir Putin has ordered daily "humanitarian pauses" in the besieged rebel-held eastern Ghouta in Syria.

Shoigu said in a statement on Monday that the cease-fire will be arranged for the suburb of the capital Damascus between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day starting Tuesday. He also said Russia will help set an evacuation route for civilians in the area.

The announcement comes two days after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved of a resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria.

Eastern Ghouta has been under intensive bombing by government forces for weeks. At least 10 people have been killed on Monday as airstrikes and bombing resumed, according to local activists.


3:40 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed his "strong concerns" over ongoing airstrikes by the Syrian regime targeting civilians and hospitals in the rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta.

In a phone call Monday with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Macron stressed the "absolute need" to fully and immediately respect the U.N. cease-fire resolution.

Macron said the humanitarian truce must apply to the whole Syrian territory, including the city of Afrin, a Kurdish-held enclave where Turkish police and paramilitary special forces have shown signs of preparation for a possible offensive.

Macron also said Russia, as a permanent member of the U.N. security council, must "take all its responsibilities toward the Syrian regime."

France's foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to Moscow on Tuesday.


3:35 p.m.

The European Union has hit Syria's industry and information ministers with sanctions, freezing their assets and preventing them from traveling in the 28-nation bloc.

EU foreign ministers made the move Monday. The Syrian ministers were only appointed last month.

It means 257 people are now under EU sanctions "for being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, benefiting from or supporting the regime, and/or being associated with such persons."

A further 67 entities — mostly companies and organizations — have had their assets frozen.

The EU has an oil embargo in place too and restricts certain investments. It also bans the export of equipment or technology that might be used to crack down on civilians or to intercept online or telephone communications.


3:20 p.m.

Syria's state news agency and an opposition monitoring group are reporting that a Turkish airstrike in northern Syria has killed five people.

The SANA agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the airstrikes occurred early on Monday in the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

The Observatory says the five were killed in the village of Yalan Quz, adding that the dead include two children. It says the death toll could still rise since some of the wounded are in critical conditions.

Turkey launched an incursion into Afrin on Jan. 20 to drive out a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia it considers to be a "terrorist" group, allied with its own Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey's borders.


3:15 p.m.

Syrian state media and a monitoring group say an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on an area held by the Islamic State group in the country's east has killed more than two dozen people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that 25 people, including seven children and six women, were killed in the area of Dahra Allouni in the province of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq.

Syrian state news agency SANA said 29 people were killed and dozens wounded in Sunday's airstrike.

The U.S.-led coalition has been targeting IS in Syria since 2014 and there have been reports that those airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

There was no immediate comment from the coalition.


12:40 p.m.

Turkish officials and media say Turkish police and paramilitary special forces have crossed the border into a Syrian Kurdish-held enclave, signaling preparations for a possible offensive to capture the enclave's main city, Afrin.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported the special forces crossed from the Turkish border provinces of Kilis and Hatay on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the deployment comes as the operation moves from rural regions of the enclave toward residential areas.

He said it's "in preparation of a new combat."

Turkey launched an incursion into Afrin on Jan. 20 to drive out a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia it considers to be a "terrorist" group, allied with its own Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey's borders.

A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted over the weekend calls for a cease-fire across all of Syria but Turkey maintains that since fighting "terrorists" such as Islamic State militants and al-Qaida is exempt from the resolution, Ankara is free to pursue its offensive against the Kurdish "terrorists."



The U.N. human rights chief has expressed caution about whether a cease-fire across Syria that was sought by the Security Council will hold, noting that "airstrikes continue over" Damascus' rebel-held suburbs.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein spoke on Monday at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, echoing calls for a "full implementation" of the truce sought in a U.N. resolution that passed unanimously over the weekend.

Zeid says that "however, we have every reason to remain cautious" and decried "seven years of failure to stop the violence, seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing" in Syria.

The Jordanian prince is not seeking a new five-year term when his current one ends in August.


11:15 a.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it's "high time to stop this hell on Earth" in Syria's embattled eastern Ghouta region.

Guterres also appealed on the warring sides to abide by a 30-day cease-fire called for by the U.N. Security Council. He spoke at the start of a session Monday of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.

The remarks were Guterres' first to a U.N. body since the 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a 30-day truce across Syria over the weekend.

Guterres says he welcomes the resolution but added that council resolutions "are only meaningful if they are effectively implemented."

He says he expects the "resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained." Guterres also called for safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, and evacuations of the sick and wounded.


11 a.m.

A Syrian monitoring group and paramedics say that despite the U.N. cease-fire resolution, new bombardment of the rebel-held suburbs east of Damascus killed 10 people as airstrikes and bombing resumed.

Syrian state TV broadcast live footage showing the Harasta suburb being pounded by airstrikes and artillery.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said nine died in an airstrike shortly after midnight on the suburb of Douma and one person was killed in Harasta on Monday morning.

The new deaths bring to 24 the two-day death toll in eastern Ghouta, on the edge of Damascus, despite U.N. Security Council's unanimous approval on Saturday of a resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria. On Sunday, 14 people were killed.

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