The Donald Trump administration on Sunday strongly criticized Russia's involvement in the ongoing military operation in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region, which has led to the killing of more than 600 civilians while Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed to carry on with the attacks in the rebel-held region.
Noting that Russian military aircraft conducted at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta from Humaymim Airfield in northwest Syria between Feb. 24 and 28, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the United States condemns the offensive "against the people of Eastern Ghouta."
"After repeatedly delaying the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2401, which demanded a 30-day cessation of hostilities across Syria, Russia has gone on to ignore its terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counter-terrorism operations," the statement continues.
However, President Assad claimed Sunday that there is "no contradiction between the truce and the military operation," and that the five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" would allow civilians to leave the area, according to The Associated Press, which also noted that no civilians have left the area through a humanitarian corridor set up by the government and Russia.
The White House statement says, "This is the same combination of lies and indiscriminate force that Russia and the Syrian regime used to isolate and destroy Aleppo in 2016, where thousands of civilians were killed."
The United States is calling on pro-regime forces to "immediately cease targeting medical infrastructure and civilians as part of the brutal campaign."
"The civilized world must not tolerate the Assad regime's continued use of chemical weapons," the statement continues. "The Assad regime, along with its backers in Moscow and Tehran, should adhere to UNSCR 2401, cease hostilities in and around Eastern Ghouta, and allow unfettered delivery of humanitarian aid to the nearly 400,000 innocent civilians in critical need."
The Syrian government has denied the use of toxic gas in its offensive, calling the allegation part of the western countries' "dictionary of lies."
The United Nations plans to deliver aid to about 70,000 people in the region of around 400,000 people, beginning Monday. Over 600 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, President Trump spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on phone on Sunday to discuss "Russia and Iran's irresponsible support of the Assad regime's brutal attacks against innocent civilians" in Syria.
The two leaders "agreed to work together on ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria and achieving Arab unity and security in the region," according to The Hill.