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Militants force prisoners to fortify positions in East Ghouta — Russia's Defense Ministry

The ceasefire monitoring proves that armed groups keep fighting in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Daraa

MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. Insurgents open fire on civilians impeding their evacuation along the humanitarian corridor in Eastern Ghouta and force prisoners to fortify their positions there, Maj Gen Yuri Yevtushenko, the chief of the Russian center for reconciliation of conflicting sides in Syria, said on Wednesday.

The ceasefire monitoring proves that armed groups keep fighting in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Daraa. The extremely tense situation in Eastern Ghouta is of particular concern. In that suburb of Damascus a humanitarian mission is underway to enable safe exits for civilians and evacuations for the sick and wounded.

"A humanitarian corridor is functioning near the populated locality of Mukhayyam al-Wafideen," Yevtushenko said. "A refugee shelter and first-aid station are on standby in the village of Edduair. There is necessary transport and ambulances. The population is being informed through all available channels."

"Nevertheless, civilians have failed to flee Eastern Ghouta today, on the second day since the humanitarian pause was declared," the general added.

"That was again hampered by armed groups, first of all, the Jaysh al-Islam group that controls the area adjoining the Mukhayyam al-Wafideen checkpoint," he noted.


Shelling of Damascus

"Over the last 24 hours, 13 mortars have been hurled into the residential areas of Damascus from the districts in Eastern Ghouta controlled by armed groups. The shelling caused civilian casualties and damage," Yevtushenko said. "Nine city residents have received wounds. Among them are three children."

According to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, since the humanitarian corridor began operating, more residents in Eastern Ghouta have been complaining about a sharp shortage of food and medicines.

"According to those asking the Syrian Arab Red Crescent for help, the militants are not letting them out of the dangerous area, are confiscating personal transport and are banning radio, television and mobile communication. They are threatening with death for any attempts to flee Eastern Ghouta."

"Reports have been confirmed that on Wednesday on the northeastern outskirt of Douma the Jaysh al-Islam insurgents dispersed a crowd of more than 300 civilians who were trying to go along the humanitarian corridor," Yevtushenko said.

"Fire was opened on people. No casualties have been reported," he said. "We are verifying the information."


Prisoners engaged

"Besides, we are aware that the Jaysh al-Islam (terrorist group outlawed in Russia) has forced prisoners, who are serving their sentences in the Et-Tauba jail in Douma, as well as civilians to fortify its [the group’s] positions adjoining the humanitarian corridor Mukhayyam al-Wafideen," the general said.

He pointed out that such steps demonstrate that militants were unwilling to implement Resolution 2401 and are determined to carry on with combat actions.