Iran to Continue Assault on Rebel-held Damascus Enclave Despite UN Call for Truce

Syrian rebels clash with pro-Assad forces ■ Rescuers and residents say warplanes bomb towns in eastern Ghouta ■ Iranian army chief: truce doesn't include suburbs 'held by terrorists'

Civil defense help an unconscious woman from a shelter in the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 22, 2018.
\ BASSAM KHABIEH/ REUTERS

Iran said pro-Damascus forces would press ahead with attacks on an insurgent enclave near the Syrian capital, as ground fighting raged on following a UN resolution demanding a 30-day truce across the country.

Rebels said they clashed with pro-government forces in the early hours of Sunday, as rescuers and residents said warplanes struck some towns in the eastern Ghouta enclave.

Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri, whose government backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Tehran and Damascus would respect the UN resolution. 

But the Iranian military chief of staff also said the truce did not cover parts of the Damascus suburbs "held by the terrorists", the Tasnim news agency. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes and shelling killed seven people and injured 31 in the eastern Damascus suburbs. The UK-based monitoring group said Sunday's bombing was less intense than attacks over the past week. 

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military. 

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The UN resolution on Saturday followed seven straight days of bombing by pro-government forces on eastern Ghouta, in one of the bloodiest offensives of the war. 

The Security Council voted unanimously to demand the truce to allow for aid access and medical evacuations. Yet while Moscow supported adopting the resolution, Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cast doubt on its feasibility.

Civil defense help a man from a shelter in the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 22, 2018.
\ BASSAM KHABIEH/ REUTERS

The resolution does not cover militants from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the Nusra Front. 

In Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the UN resolution would not affect Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin region. 

Several ceasefires have unraveled quickly during the seven-year war in Syria, where Assad's military has gained the upper hand with the help of Iran and Russia. 

The latest escalation by Damascus and its allies has killed more than 500 people in the enclave over the last week, the Observatory says. The dead included more than 120 children

The Syrian government and Russia deny hitting civilians. Moscow and Damascus have said they seek to stop mortar attacks by militants injuring dozens in the capital.