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Blocked by Russia, U.N. Fails to Pass Syria Cease-Fire Resolution

The United Nations Security Council, facing staunch opposition from Russia, failed to pass a resolution on Thursday that would have imposed a 30-day cease-fire in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to reached a besieged Damascus suburb.

With new reports on Thursday of a rocket attack that took 42 lives, the death toll this week in the rebel-held suburb, eastern Ghouta, rose to more than 300.

The suffering of civilians in Syria “brings shame on all of us,” Britain’s representative, Stephen Hickey, said at the Security Council meeting. He described the conditions in eastern Ghouta as a “hell on earth.”

France’s ambassador, François Delattre, called reports of civilian deaths there “unbearable” and warned that inaction could become “the grave of the United Nations.”

But Russia’s ambassador, Vasily A. Nebenzya, whose veto is the lone obstacle to the resolution, dismissed the reports as disinformation and propaganda.

He accused his fellow ambassadors and United Nations officials of succumbing to “massive psychosis” perpetuated by the global news media, which he said had engaged in the “coordinated and repeated spread of the same rumors in recent days.”

The images of stacked bodies, burned and broken children, bombed-out hospitals and families huddling from rockets in makeshift shelters are no more than “propagandistic scenarios of catastrophe,” he said.

“You get the impression that all of eastern Ghouta consists only of hospitals and it is with them that the Syrian Army is fighting,” he said. “This is a well known method of information warfare.”

Mr. Nebenzya made clear that Russia, Syria’s primary military ally, would not support a cease-fire resolution for the time being.

Eastern Ghouta, a cluster of farms and small towns, is one of the last major areas held by Syrian rebels. With reports of hospitals being bombed there and shortages of food and water, the cease-fire was intended to allow humanitarian convoys to bring in food and medical supplies.

Ultimately the resolution, which was drafted by Kuwait and Sweden and supported by almost all of the 15 members of the Security Council, was not even put to a vote Thursday.

In remarks after the session, Syria’s ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said accusations by the United States, Britain and France — which he called the “three musketeers” — that the Syrian government was indiscriminately bombing civilians were completely false. He accused them of ignoring rocket attacks by rebels in eastern Ghouta that have killed scores in Damascus.

The scene at the Security Council on Thursday underscored a growing sense of powerlessness and exasperation at the United Nations as the Syrian civil war reaches new levels of violence.

In response to reports of mass casualties among children in eastern Ghouta, Unicef issued a statement this week that was completely blank, explaining that there were no words left to describe the horrors.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, had no such problem: “Airstrikes, mortars, rockets, barrel bombs, cluster munitions, chemical weapons, thermite bombs, suicide bombs, snipers, double-tap attacks on civilians and the essential infrastructure they depend on, including hospitals and schools, rape, illegal detention, torture, child recruitment and sieges of entire cities reminiscent of medieval times.”

It is not clear what more can be done at the United Nations to break the impasse, though some diplomats said there was still hope for a vote on a cease-fire resolution on Friday.

In eastern Ghouta, residents and activists say even the underground shelters where hundreds have sought refuge from the continuing bombardment, are no longer safe.

On Thursday, local activists published a list of 42 victims, mostly women and children, who were killed when a rocket hit their shelter in the village of Beit Sawa this week. The names took three days to compile, the activists said, because rescue workers could only search for bodies during intervals in the bombing.

Only seven people who were in the shelter survived, said Mohyadeen Motassem, a media activist in Beit Sawa who was nearby at the time of the attack. He had been hiding in a neighboring shelter when the first strike hit. “Everyone else was martyred,” he said.

Among those named on the list was Fatimah Khaled Abdel Rizaq. She was number 20.

On lines 21 through 25 were the names of her five children.

Courtesy: The Newyork Times