Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Strikes hit Syria's battered Ghouta after aid convoy turns back

MIDEAST-CRISIS  SYRIA A man pushes a cart past damaged buildings in Douma on Monday
Sherri Watson | 06 March, 2018, 20:14

A first aid convoy reached Eastern Ghouta on Monday but the operation was cut short as air strikes pounded the enclave, killing at least 68 civilians, according to a human rights monitor.

Russian Federation meanwhile has offered rebels safe passage out of the area.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the besieged enclave of satellite towns and rural areas on the outskirts of Damascus in one of the fiercest bombing campaigns of the seven-year-old war.

On Tuesday the Russian defence ministry offered rebels safe passage out of eastern Ghouta with their families - but unlike in other sieges, such as east Aleppo, there is no nearby rebel stronghold to evacuate to.The Russian proposal did not specify where the rebels would go but in previous deals insurgents have been given safe passage to Idlib province in northwest Syria.

Damascus and Moscow have accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving in order to use them as human shields. On Tuesday, Syria's SANA state news agency said troops had captured the village of Muhamadiya at the southeast edge of the enclave.

The "humanitarian pause" fell far short of a month-long nationwide ceasefire demanded by the UN Security Council last month.

Capturing the town has enabled the Syrian army to cut off supply routes and communication between the rebels in Eastern Ghouta, said SANA, adding that the rebels in that area are suffering chaos and collapse.

The Syrian Red Crescent earlier said 46 truckloads of food parcels were delivered to 27,500 people, along with health items for more than 70,000 people in Douma. That pushed the death toll to 760 in the last three weeks.

"The UN and partners continue to be ready to deliver the second part of aid to Douma on March 8, as planned, should the conditions allow it".

The council condemned "the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments against civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta".

"The Russian center for reconciliation will guarantee security for all militants who will decide to leave Ghouta with weapons and their families", said Yevtushenko, meanwhile urging all "leaders of armed groups of eastern Ghouta to guarantee the safe passage of civilians and allow the distribution of humanitarian aid". But the government had stripped some medical supplies from the convoy.