White House condemns Syria slaughter backed by Russia, Iran

The White House condemned Russia’s involvement in Syria's slaughter inside Eastern Ghouta, saying in a statement Sunday that the Syrian campaign backed by Russia and Iran is killing “innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations.”

“After repeatedly delaying the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2401, which demanded a 30-day cessation of hostilities across Syria, Russia has gone on to ignore its terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations. This is the same combination of lies and indiscriminate force that Russia and the Syrian regime used to isolate and destroy Aleppo in 2016, where thousands of civilians were killed,” the U.S. statement said.

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.

The U.N. said 15,000 people reportedly have been driven from their homes in January, the majority staying in shelters and basements around Ghouta.

The Syrian government and its backer Russia appear determined to seize the region, adding it to the latest series of victories that have consolidated President Bashar Assad’s hold on power seven years into the conflict.

“The civilized world must not tolerate the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical weapons,” the U.S. statement said, referring to recent reports that the Assad government has used chemical weapons against the rebel-held areas; Assad has denied the allegations, according to The Hill.

Russia has accused the rebels of preventing civilians from leaving, which insurgents have denied. The rebels say the humanitarian corridor is part of government efforts to forcibly displace the population, and have called on government forces to implement a full cease-fire adopted by the U.N. Security Council.

Eastern Ghouta has been besieged by government forces since 2013. The last aid delivery to Ghouta was on Feb. 14, when help was sent to around 7,000 people in Nashabiyah, now under government control.

In a statement Sunday, the U.N. said it plans to deliver aid to Douma, the largest town in eastern Ghouta, with its partners on the ground. An aid convoy consisting of 46 truckloads will be allowed in Monday with health and nutrition supplies and food for 27,500. The convoy will be led by Ali al-Za’tari, the U.N. resident humanitarian coordinator in Syria.

“We hope that the convoy may proceed as planned and will be followed by other convoys,” al-Za’tari said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.