Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Geneva — The UN Human Rights Council on Monday ordered an urgent investigation into the situation in Syria’s besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta and demanded immediate humanitarian access to the area.

The council voted in favour of a resolution calling on rights investigators to "urgently conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into recent events in Eastern Ghouta."

With 29 votes in favour, 14 abstentions and four opposed, the UN’s top rights body also demanded immediate humanitarian access to the area where 400,000 residents have lived under siege from the regime since 2013 and face severe food and medicine shortages.

The UN said on Sunday that it planned to deliver desperately needed humanitarian assistance to the enclave on Monday with a convoy of "46 truckloads of health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people in need".

But fresh violence could jeopardise the deliveries after fresh air raids by the Syrian regime killed at least 14 civilians overnight in the enclave.

"The UN and partners are ready to go as soon as all the necessarily elements are in place for us to do so," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said on Monday. He added, however, that he did not yet have confirmation that that was the case.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said barrel bombs — crude, improvised munitions that cause indiscriminate damage — were used, including on the town of Hammuriyeh, where 10 people were killed.

The latest deaths brought to 709 the number of civilians killed since regime and allied Russian forces intensified their campaign against Eastern Ghouta in February.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory, said at least 166 were children.

AFP