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UN Warns That Syria Cease-fire Must Take Effect Immediately

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, reminded all parties that the  Security Council cease-fire warning for Syria – adopted unanimously over the weekend – must be enforced at once.

“Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effective,” Mr. Guterres said at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth.”

His reaction was matched by that of his colleague, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ top human rights official – after Monday continued to see bombs falling down on the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein considers the five permanent members of the Security Council responsible for the lack of respect for voted resolutions brought to the table after days of haggling. The final deal was a 30-day cease-fire in Syria, but it contained loopholes that allowed intensive bombing and shelling of the beleaguered enclave to continue.

Because of these poorly thought out deals, more than 500 people have died in the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta in the past week, including 24 in the 24 hours since the cease-fire resolution was passed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, and hospitals in the area still remain prime targets for bombing campaigns.

Combating terrorism, according to Mr. Guterres, does not supersede obligations under international law to protect civilians – all the while looking at Syrian, Russian and Iranian representatives who have stated their determination to keep up military action against terrorist groups.

Speaking immediately after the secretary general, Mr. al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, spread responsibility beyond the powers fighting there. With six months remaining in his term and no intention of extending it, he apparently felt free to be blunt.

“Second to the criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the Security Council,” he told an audience that included several heads of state and dozens of foreign ministers.

On Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered a daily humanitarian truce in eastern Ghouta that would start on Tuesday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. There was no sign that the cease-fire had taken hold, and it was not clear what effect the Russian announcement might have given the numerous players in the conflict — most notably those supporting the Syrian government, and Iranian-backed forces.

, which is based in Paris, said that within 24 hours of the resolution’s approval, two more hospitals in eastern Ghouta had been hit by airstrikes. It added that there were 31 attacks on 26 medical facilities in the week that ended on Sunday. At least 541 people were killed and thousands wounded in that time it said.

“I am ashamed of the U.N. Security Council,” Ziad Alissa, president of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, said in a statement after two more hospitals in eastern Ghouta were hit by airstrikes.

“The most powerful nations in the world are unable to enforce the most basic standards of human rights. Failure to enforce these resolutions calls into question the very reason for this process. They are disconnected from reality.”

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