Fatalities reported as militants clash with civilians trying to flee E. Ghouta

Four civilians died as militants opened fire preventing them from fleeing Eastern Ghouta, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said. It added that “desperate civilians” killed three “bandits” in subsequent clashes.

Militants are preventing civilians from fleeing besieged Eastern Ghouta and sabotage humanitarian operation there, Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, told journalists on Thursday.

The official also revealed that four people were killed in Wednesday’s shooting, when the Jaysh al-Islam militants operating in Douma opened fire on more than 300 civilians who wanted to leave the area through the humanitarian corridor.

“The reality of these threats [that militants forbid people to leave through the humanitarian corridors] is confirmed by yesterday’s shelling of about 300 local residents protesting in Douma. According to updated information, four people were killed during this spontaneous protest,” Zolotukhin said.

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As the crowds of protesters clashed with the militants, “desperate civilians killed three bandits,” the spokesman added.

The militants refuse to let the civilians flee the area even when they offer money for permission, according to the official. They also confiscate the locals’ cars “for their own purposes,” create a food and drug deficit for civilians, and prohibit the use of radio, TV and cell phones.

The armed groups still refuse to observe the ceasefire and continue to sabotage the humanitarian operation, ignoring the calls of the Russian Reconciliation Center called for militants to let civilians leave the area. During the third daily humanitarian pause the militants’ attacks were repelled three times by Syrian government forces, according to the Russian military.

However, since the introduction of a daily five-hour humanitarian pause on February 27 aimed to avoid civilian casualties, people still have not managed to flee the conflict zone due to the constant militant fire.

“The disruption of the humanitarian operation occurs because of the illegal armed groups. The militants still do not observe the ceasefire and do not allow the civilian population to leave the dangerous zone,” the official said. He added that in the past 24 hours the number of civilians calling to help them to flee the militant-controlled area has rapidly risen.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution proposing a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria. The ceasefire does not apply to members of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Al-Nusra Front or any other terrorist organizations. After criticizing the first draft of the document, Russia reiterated its earlier accusations during the final discussions, accusing the West of conducting a “propaganda campaign” against the government forces battling terrorists in Eastern Ghouta.

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