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France Calls for Humanitarian Corridors in Syria as Death Toll in Ghouta Mounts

France Calls for Humanitarian Corridors in Syria as Death Toll in Ghouta Mounts

Friday, 9 February, 2018 - 10:30
Smoke billows from an area that was targeted by Syrian regime air strikes in the rebel-held town of Arbin, on the outskirts of Damascus, on February 1, 2018. (AFP)

France called on Friday for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Syria as a monitor announced that the shelling of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave has been the worst in three years.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly demanded an end to air strikes, saying it was unacceptable that civilians were being targeted.

“We are very worried. The air strikes need to end,” Parly said on France Inter radio.

She highlighted the fighting in rebel-held areas of Idlib province and eastern Damascus, where waves of Syrian regime and Russian strikes have killed dozens of civilians in recent days.

“Civilians are the targets, in Idlib and in the east of Damascus. This fighting is absolutely unacceptable,” she added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile said that Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has suffered its bloodiest week since 2015 as a result of regime bombardment, with 229 people killed in the last four days.

“During the past four days 229 people were killed in Eastern Ghouta villages, including 58 children and 43 women,” Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Britain-based war monitor, told Reuters.

The Syrian war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, while drawing in regional countries and global powers supporting client factions on the ground.

Parly did not specify who was carrying out the strikes.

Her comments came after the United Nations on Tuesday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria of at least a month. UN war crimes experts have also said they are investigating several reports of bombs allegedly containing chlorine gas being used against civilians.

Russia said on Thursday that a ceasefire was unrealistic.

Standing beside Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer, French leader Emmanuel Macron said any failure to open humanitarian corridors in Syria represented a “red line”, as did the use of chemical weapons.

France and the United Nations have repeatedly called in past months for the opening of aid corridors to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. The Paris government has also urged Moscow in private to consider ways to alleviate the crisis, but those efforts have not materialized into results on the ground.

France’s foreign minister is due in Russia before the end of February.

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