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'Humanitarian Pause' in Fighting Goes into Effect in Syria


The damaged cars and buildings are seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria February 25, 2018.

A daily "humanitarian pause" announced by Russia went into effect Tuesday in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the five-hour window was meant to let civilians escape fighting near Damascus.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Russian stand-down would run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time.

The order comes days after the United Nations Security Council ordered a 30-day cease-fire across Syria.That plan got off to a shaky start with activists reporting continued airstrikes and fighting in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus that killed more than 30 people Monday.

In a phone call Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his "strong concerns" about the ongoing airstrikes aimed at civilians and hospitals in eastern Ghouta.

But the French leader also called on Erdogan to end Turkey's airstrikes in Afrin in northern Syria, which it launched last month against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia it considers to be a "terrorist" group allied with Kurdish insurgents that have been fighting the government inside Turkey for three decades.On Sunday, Turkey said the U.N. truce would not affect its operations in northern Syria.

Syria's state news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish attacks early Monday killed five people.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said resolutions issued by the Security Council "are only meaningful if they are effectively implemented," while reiterating that Syrians in the besieged area of eastern Ghouta "cannot wait" for humanitarian aid.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein cast a level of doubt on the prospects for the resolution, saying it "must also be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence, seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing."

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