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Militants bar at least 1,500 civilians from leaving East Ghouta — reconciliation center

March 08, 22:37 UTC+3

Russia insists that using violence against civilians, preventing them from leaving the region and using them as a human shield is inadmissible

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© REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

MOSCOW, March 8. /TASS/. About 1,500 residents of five Eastern Ghouta settlements are ready to leave the militant-controlled Syrian district via a humanitarian corridor, but militants prevent them from doing so, the head of the Russian reconciliation center said on Thursday.

"Militant leaders prevent civilians from leaving Eastern Ghouta by all means. According to our estimates, for today at least 1,500 residents of Jisrein, Hammura, Saqba, Kafr Batna and Hezzeh are ready to leave Eastern Ghouta," said Major General Yuri Yevtushenko, the chief of the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring sides in Syria.

"The reconciliation center’s hotline is receiving phone calls from local residents, who say they are willing to leave Eastern Ghouta. People have grown tired of militants’ lawlessness, they complain of unbearable conditions and are ready to leave the de-escalation zone even bypassing the established humanitarian corridor," he added.

The official reiterated Russian security guarantees to everyone willing to leave the region.

"Considering the present situation, we once again call on militant leaders to let all those willing to leave Eastern Ghouta to do so. Our security guarantees remain in place," he said.

Russia insists that using violence against civilians, preventing them from leaving the region and using them as a human shield is inadmissible, Yevtushenko went on.

Earlier today, international humanitarian organizations in cooperation with the Syrian government had to adjourn a humanitarian delivery to Douma, scheduled for early March 8, due to intensified attacks by the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia).

"Humanitarian assistance to Eastern Ghouta residents will resume when the situation stabilizes," he said.

Militants still control 80 square kilometers in Eastern Ghouta or about one-third of this area located along the Damascus-Homs highway. Humanitarian pauses in the region are being declared at Russia’s initiative daily since February 27 to facilitate civilians’ evacuation from the districts controlled by armed gangs. They are in effect from 09:00 (10:00 Moscow time) to 14:00 (15:00 Moscow time) local time.

For the first few days, the humanitarian pauses were disrupted by terrorists, who shelled the humanitarian corridor, through which civilians were supposed to leave the area.

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