Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared a daily cease-fire in fighting in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region, his defense minister said.
The area has been under intense bombardment for over a week by Syrian military forces, with Russian support. Nearly 400,000 people remain trapped in the fighting, and over 550 deaths have been reported.
The daily, five-hour cease-fire will begin Tuesday to open a "humanitarian corridor" for supplies deliveries and the evacuations. Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu made the announcement at a ministry board meeting Monday that was attended by Putin.
"Being aware that Eastern Ghouta is not the sole trouble spot on the territory of Syria with regard to civilians and refugees, we know that the Rukban refugee camp, controlled by the U.S., is located in al-Tanf," Shoigu said. "We propose organizing the same humanitarian corridors and humanitarian pauses in the al Tanf and Rukban areas as well so that civilians can freely return to their homes and start restoring peaceful life."
Russia's decision to implement a cease-fire came after the United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously called for a 30-day cessation of fighting in the Ghouta region. The vote was delayed for days so that Russia could make revisions to the draft of the plan. The U.N. resolution calls for rebels to refrain from firing artillery shells into the capital of Damascus, which have also killed civilians.
Sunday, workers at a hospital operated by the relief agency Syrian American Medical Society said it admitted 18 patients with symptoms indicative of chemical attacks. While the Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against its own citizens, a 2015 U.N. investigation concluded that the Syrian government has used choline, a nerve agent, as a weapon.