The Latest: At least 50 killed in Syria’s eastern Ghouta

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

A war monitoring group says at least 50 people have been killed in government shelling and airstrikes on the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the Syrian capital.

The latest violence on Monday came as a U.N. relief convoy delivered humanitarian aid to residents stranded in the besieged region.

Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says there has been no letup to the government’s assault on the rebel-held suburbs.

The activist-run Ghouta Media Center says government strikes have killed 24 civilians in Hammouriyeh and another 10 in Harasta, both towns in eastern Ghouta.

A United Nations convoy delivered food and medicine to the town of Douma on Monday, but aid agencies say Syrian authorities blocked many of the health supplies, including trauma and surgical kits as well as insulin.

The aid shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta since Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, ordered a daily “humanitarian pause” to the fighting a week ago. Activists and the Observatory say the pauses have not been enforced.


4 p.m.

Syrian Kurdish media say at least 13 civilians were killed in Turkish shelling on the town of Jindaris, as Turkish forces try to press their advances on the Kurdish-held Afrin enclave in northwest Syria.

The Hawar News Agency says another 3 civilians were killed in Turkish shelling near Rajo, also in Afrin, on Monday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported 13 killed in Jindaris, including 2 children. It says at least 165 civilians have been killed by Turkish fire since Turkey launched its “Operation Olive Branch” to drive out Kurdish forces from Afrin.

Turkey and various Syrian opposition forces fighting alongside it have taken more than a quarter of the Afrin canton since operations began six weeks ago, according to the Observatory.

Turkey views the main Kurdish militia in Afrin as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.


1:35 p.m.

A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross says the delivery of assistance to Damascus’ opposition-held suburb of eastern Ghouta is a “first positive step” but that more needs to be done.

Ingy Sedky says there needs to be repeated and continuous access to eastern Ghouta by humanitarian organizations.

She spoke from Damascus to The Associated Press as a 46-truck convoy was entering the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta, marking the first delivery of humanitarian assistance to the area in nearly three weeks. It includes 5,500 food and flour bags enough for 27,500 people, in addition to wheat flour, medical and surgical items.

It comes amid a crushing Syrian government military offensive on eastern Ghouta, home to about 400,000 people.


12:40 p.m.

The United Nations says an aid convoy carrying humanitarian assistance has started entering the town of Douma in Damascus’ besieged rebel-held suburbs of eastern Ghouta.

The U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office says in a Twitter posting on Monday that the convoy of trucks is carrying health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people in need.

It says some life-saving health supplies were not allowed to be loaded.

Monday’s convoy marks the first time an aid delivery is allowed into eastern Ghouta in nearly three weeks.

Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, has been under a crippling siege and daily bombardment for months. More than 600 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks alone.


12:20 p.m.

The U.N.’s top human rights body has called for U.N.-mandated investigators for Syria to conduct an urgent and targeted probe of recent violence in the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus.

The Human Rights Council on Monday adopted a resolution proposed by Britain in a 29-4 vote. There were 14 abstentions.

The resolution instructs the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, created six-and-a-half years ago by the council, to conduct a “comprehensive and independent inquiry into the recent events” in eastern Ghouta and report back at the next council session in June.

The resolution also threw the council’s support behind a Security Council resolution passed last month, calling for a 30-day cease-fire across Syria to allow humanitarian aid in and to evacuate the sick and injured.


11:25 a.m.

The Syrian government says it has achieved “significant” progress in its ongoing military operation in rebel-held suburbs east of Damascus, seizing around 36 percent of the total area held by different armed groups.

Syria’s Central Military Media says troops are continuing their advance from the east and are only 3 kilometers, or 1.8 miles, from meeting troops advancing from the west, which would achieve the partitioning of eastern Ghouta into two parts.

Monday’s announcement comes a day after troops recaptured control over the town of Nashabiyah and a number of villages and farms in eastern Ghouta in the largest advances since the government’s wide-scale operation began last month.

Eastern Ghouta has been under daily bombardment for months. More than 600 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks alone.

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