United Nations to vote on 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria

Germany's Chancellor Merkel gives a statement after a European Union leaders informal summit in Brussels

"For the resolution to be effective, and we are ready to negotiate such a text, we have put forward a principle that will enable the ceasefire to become real and based on guarantees of all those inside Eastern Ghouta and beyond Eastern Ghouta", he added.

She said over the past three months more than 2,000 civilians have been killed, almost 5,000 wounded and 32 medical centers and clinics have been destroyed.

Russia, Turkey and Iran in 2017 had designated Eastern Ghouta as a "de-escalation zone", meaning civilians could reside there without being targeted by any party in Syria's war.

The UN Security Council delayed a vote on a resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire across Syria until Saturday in hopes of closing a gap over the timing for a halt to fighting.

In a statement published Friday, the army said Turkish artillery hit the 30 to 40-vehicle convoy of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, in southeastern Afrin.

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Eyes were on Moscow, and whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's veto-wielding ally would back the United Nations Security Council's draft ceasefire resolution, block it or seek to water it down in a way that would let bombing go on. In November, it used its veto to end a UN-led investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

A previous draft had said the ceasefire would go into force 72 hours after the adoption, but that was dropped from the text in a bid to reach compromise with Russian Federation.

The initial resolution called for the ceasefire to begin 72 hours after its adoption, but diplomats continued discussions into the night about the final wording.

In a concession to Russian Federation, the latest draft of the resolution states that operations against Islamic State, al Qaeda, and "individuals, groups..." associated with the extremist groups will not be included.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also had urged an immediate suspension of "all war activities" in eastern Ghouta, saying 400,000 people are living "in hell on Earth".

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Hamza Birqdar, the military spokesman for the Jaish al-Islam rebel faction, said it had thwarted nine attacks by pro-government militias trying to storm a front in the southeast of Ghouta. "This would draw tears from a rock", the 50-year-old, who was escorting a wounded person to hospital, said. Along with jihadi Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Islamist groups Ahrar al-Sham, Failaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam were also active in the battle against the Syrian military and its allies.

Meanwhile, a top United Nations official said his office has received thousands of messages from civilians under bombardment in eastern Ghouta, as he stressed for stopping hostilities in the region.

"We refuse categorically any initiative that includes getting the residents out of their homes and moving them elsewhere", Ghouta rebel factions wrote in a letter to the Security Council.

The area is completely surrounded by government-controlled territory and residents are unwilling or unable to flee the deadly siege.

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