Monday, 20 May, 2019

UNICEF ready for 50000 people exiting Syria's eastern Ghouta

Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian civilians with their belongings fleeing from fighting between the Syrian Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian civilians with their belongings fleeing from fighting between the Syrian
Patty Aguilar | 16 March, 2018, 23:16

The government offensive has pushed further into eastern Ghouta, chipping away at one of the largest and most significant opposition bastions since the early days of the rebellion - communities where 400,000 people are estimated to be holed up.

Around 20,000 civilians may leave Eastern Ghouta on Friday, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin told reporters.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the Russian military and the Syrian government would extend a "ceasefire" in Damascus's rebel-held suburbs for as long as it takes to allow all the civilians to leave.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government and Russian forces have been bombing rebel-towns areas outside Damascus throughout Friday, killing 64 people in Kafr Batna and another 12 in Saqba.

As many as 50,000 people have fled two separate offensives in Syria in recent days, activists say. The rebels deny this and say the government aims to depopulate opposition areas.

He said the government and Syrian Red Crescent were co-ordinating to facilitate the safe transport of people from eastern Ghouta "to temporary shelters that are equipped with all the necessary equipment". Women and children waved to the camera.

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The Ghouta and Afrin campaigns have both continued despite a UN Security Council demand for a ceasefire.

Lavrov made the remarks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Friday, where he and his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu, have gathered to address the situation in Syria.

Exhausted and shell-shocked civilians streamed out of eastern Ghouta for the second consecutive day heading to buses arranged by the government to transport them to a centre for identification and relief. The three states past year agreed to contain the conflict on several fronts with "de-escalation zones", while simultaneously pursuing own military objectives in Syria.

But Kurdish fighters in Syria have been a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, and have received support from the United States to that end.

Birusk Hasakeh, the YPG spokesman in Afrin, said the Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel militia allies were trying to storm Afrin from the north on Friday.

Turkey is targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a militia that it regards as an extension of the Kurdish forces on its own territory - a banned group that Turkey considers a terrorist organisation. The shelling had killed 18 people and more people were believed to be trapped under rubble, he said. "A future filled with calm and peace awaits you in Afrin", it said.

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