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Militants use humanitarian pause for offensive in Eastern Ghouta — top brass

February 27, 19:48 UTC+3

Russia urges militants in Eastern Ghouta to refrain from hindering civilians' exit

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MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. Militants have launched an offensive in Eastern Ghouta taking advantage of the humanitarian pause, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, Head of the Russian Reconciliation Center, said on Tuesday.

According to Yevtushenko, earlier on Tuesday, during the humanitarian pause, the militants shelled the humanitarian corridor twice with mortars from the area between the populated localities of Harasta and Douma from 11:45 to 12:25 (12:45-13:25 Moscow Time). The mortar bombs exploded 500 meters from the checkpoint.

"Apart from that, during the humanitarian pause, militants from armed groups continued to attack government forces' positions in the areas close to the populated localities of Khazramah and al-Nashabiyah launching an offensive in other directions after 13:00 [14:00 Moscow Time - TASS]. These actions were accompanied by artillery barrage and small arms fire," the general said.

The militants also tried to hinder civilians’ exodus from Eastern Ghouta in the areas close to some inhabited communities.

Major-General Vladimir Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Russian Reconciliation Center, said earlier on Tuesday that during the humanitarian pause militants shelled the corridor used for evacuating civilians from Eastern Ghouta every 30 minutes. Due to that, the population’s evacuation was disrupted, and not a single civilian could leave the area during the day.

Yevtushenko stressed that the Reconciliation Center guarantees the safety of civilians leaving Eastern Ghouta and is doing its utmost to make sure that the cesssation of hostilities and humanitarian pauses in this de-escalation zone are observed.

He recalled that the Russian command, together with the Syrian authorities, had begun a humanitarian operation on Tuesday on instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help evacuate civilians, the sick and wounded from Eastern Ghouta, adding that a daily ceasefire had been declared from 09:00 to 14:00 local time. 

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