Medical aid again blocked from Eastern Ghouta

Frederick Owens
March 10, 2018

Syria's army is poised to slice rebel-held eastern Ghouta in two as forces advancing from the east link up with troops at its western edge, a pro-Damascus commander said on Thursday.

In a statement published on Twitter on Friday, the group said the decision had been made in consultation with the United Nations, a number of global parties and civil society representatives from eastern Ghouta.

He said the fighting had resumed "despite assurances of safety from parties including the Russian Federation". "No", he said in a text message when asked if the report was correct.

The deal to evacuate members of Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist factions linked to the Nusra Front, formerly the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, mirrors previous evacuation deals across Syria.

There was no confirmation by any of the rebel groups based in eastern Ghouta of negotiations to leave eastern Ghouta.

Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday some rebels wanted to accept the proposal to evacuate.

In a statement, Jaish al-Islam said the imprisoned fighters would be sent to a rebel-held area in northwest Syria.

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"It was a miracle that we made it here", he said, speaking of the heavy air strikes.

The Syrian government has opened what it calls safe routes out of the enclave, but no civilians are known to have left yet.

State TV later said that insurgents targeted the Wafideen corridor on Friday afternoon with bullets and mortar shells to prevent people from leaving.

However, the terror of the bombardment and the desperate living conditions are taking their toll and may push people to fearless the fighting and flee.

State media have reported people in eastern Ghouta raising Syrian government flags and holding small protests in support of Assad.

The Observatory reported airstrikes on Douma and Jisreen just before the 13-truck convoy arrived Friday, following a hourslong lull.

A United Nations official who entered eastern Ghouta earlier this week said civilians stuck inside the enclave - mostly women and children - would like to leave but have nowhere to go and feel they can't exit safely from the designated checkpoints.

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