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Evacuation of civilians from Eastern Ghouta impossible on Saturday

March 03, 21:26 UTC+3 EASTERN GHOUTA

According to Maj Gen Vladimir Zolotukhin, a representative of the Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria, a network of underground tunnels is actively used by insurgents

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© Ghouta Media Center via AP

EASTERN GHOUTA /Syria/, March 3. /TASS/. Militants holed up in Eastern Ghouta continue staging provocations during humanitarian pauses, so sniper fire was delivered at the area surrounding the checkpoint throughout Saturday, Maj Gen Vladimir Zolotukhin, a representative of the Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria, told reporters.

"A humanitarian corridor operates under control of the Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides. Nevertheless, militants do not stop provocations even during humanitarian pauses," he said. "Today, the area near the checkpoint came under sniper fire throughout the day. Besides, from 9.35 a.m. until 11.10 a.m. fire from small arms was opened four times on the humanitarian corridor, three local civilians received wounds."

A network of underground tunnels is actively used by insurgents, Zolotukhin said.

Civilians failed to evacuate from Eastern Ghouta as illegal armed units force people to stay as "a human shield" against the Syrian government forces’ strikes.

"For this purpose, the Jaysh al-Islam leaders deployed their command centers and fortifications to residential houses in populated localities of Ash-Shafuniya and Utaya. The illegal group’s actions coupled with their shelling of the city of Damascus and its outskirts are war crimes. Those guilty must be held accountable," he said.

According to the Syrian intelligence, the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (banned in Russia) is plotting a provocation to sabotage the UN relief convoy scheduled for March 4 in the town of Douma.

"Jihadists are planning to open mortar fire on the convoy and pin the blame on government forces. We demand the leaders of illegal armed groups halt provocations, abide by the cessation of hostilities and immediately provide unimpeded evacuations for civilians from the area of fighting," he said in conclusion.

Humanitarian pauses

On February 24, the UN Security Council in a unanimous vote approved the resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to allow aid access to the population. The Security Council’s 15 members, including Russia, voted for the document.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Monday said that on instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin a daily humanitarian pause was introduced in Eastern Ghouta (a suburb of Damascus) from 09:00 to 14:00 local time, starting from Tuesday, February 27. In the village of Al-Wafideen, the Syrian authorities and the Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides created conditions for civilians evacuating along the only humanitarian corridor connecting Damascus and Eastern Ghouta.

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