At least 1500 civilians trying to leave the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta were prevented from doing so by militants, with several people who were trying to leave on Thursday killed or injured, the Russian military said.
People are calling the hotline set up by the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, saying they are “tired of the tyranny by the militants; they complain about the unbearable conditions and are eager to flee the area, even bypassing the established humanitarian corridor,” Major General Yury Yevtushenko, the head of the Reconciliation Center, said in a statement on Thursday.
“According to our estimations, at least 150,000 residents are ready to leave Eastern Ghouta,” he said, adding that the militants holed up in the suburb of the Syrian capital are “putting maximum effort” into preventing the people from doing so.
“The illegal armed groups have intensified repressive measures against the population and increased the intensity of shelling of the Mukhayyam – al-Wafideen checkpoint,” with the militant fire not even stopping during humanitarian pauses, Yevtushenko said. “At the moment nobody from the enclave was able to reach the checkpoint.”
The terrorists also opened fire at hundreds of civilians, who were being moved to the Jisreen – Mleha checkpoint, which was established by the Syrian authorities on Thursday. There are fatalities and injuries as a result of the attack, with three cars also burnt, the head of the Reconciliation Center said, adding that the checkpoint was itself shelled later in the day.
The militants in Eastern Ghouta have also continued the bombardment of Damascus and its suburbs, firing eight mortar shells at the city and injuring nine people. The activities of the terrorists have led to the humanitarian convoy, which was to be delivered to the residents of Eastern Ghouta on Thursday, being postponed. “Humanitarian assistance… will be resumed after the situation stabilizes,” Yevtushenko said.
He reiterated that the humanitarian corridor in Eastern Ghouta remains open to both civilians and militants who are willing to flee. Using violence to prevent people from leaving and using them as human shields is “unacceptable,” the head of the Reconciliation Center said, again urging the armed groups to allow exit from the enclave.
A Russia-backed ceasefire came into effect in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta around a week ago in order to allow humanitarian aid deliveries and evacuation of civilians through a specially established humanitarian corridor. However, the militants ignored the truce as they continued shelling Damascus and fired at those trying to leave the area. An estimated 400,000 people remain trapped in besieged Eastern Ghouta since 2013.
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