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Feb 24, 7:48 AM EST

Airstrikes on suburbs of Syrian capital claim more lives

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

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BEIRUT (AP) -- A new wave of airstrikes and shelling on eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus left at least five people dead and more than a dozen wounded Saturday, raising the death toll of a week of bombing in the area to nearly 500, including scores of women and children.

The latest wave of bombardment came after the U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on a resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire across Syria in hopes of closing a gap over the timing for a halt to fighting. A vote was scheduled for later Saturday.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has called an immediate cease-fire unrealistic, and in an apparent bid to get Russian support, sponsors Kuwait and Sweden amended the draft resolution to drop a demand that the cease-fire take effect 72 hours after the resolution's adoption.

Instead, the new text circulated Friday night "demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay." The latest draft resolution says a cease-fire must be followed immediately by access for humanitarian convoys and medical teams to evacuate the critically ill and wounded.

Russia has been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the country's conflict began seven years ago. In 2015, Moscow joined the war on Assad's side tipping the balance of power in his favor.

Syrian opposition activists say Russian warplanes are taking part in bombarding Damascus' eastern suburbs, also known as eastern Ghouta, where many people are hiding in underground shelters with little food and medical supplies amid a tight government siege.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes that hit several suburbs left two people dead in the town of Zamalka and three in nearby Harasta.

The Ghouta Media Center, an activist collective, said the airstrikes and artillery shelling killed nine people Saturday in several towns.

The Observatory said that since the latest wave of bombardment began Sunday, 492 civilians, including 116 children and 64 women, have been killed in eastern Ghouta.

Syrian state media reported that rebels fired mortar shells on Damascus, Assad's seat of power, causing material damage.

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