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Russia says Eastern Ghouta ‘escalating’ after calling daily truce

By AFP 26 February 2018

Russia's defence ministry warned Monday that the situation in Syria's Eastern Ghouta was worsening, after bowing to international pressure and calling for a daily "humanitarian pause" in the rebel-held enclave.

While the UN Security Council on Saturday passed a resolution for a 30-day truce, “the situation in Eastern Ghouta is continuing to escalate,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a briefing.

Russia, the Syrian regime’s main backer, called a daily “humanitarian pause” earlier Monday after the United Nations, France and Germany urged President Vladimir Putin to demand Damascus enforce a ceasefire.

During humanitarian pauses “with the aim of immediately saving the peaceful population,” to run from 9 to 2 pm each day starting Tuesday, “Syrian government forces will cease strikes on terrorists,” Russia said.

It said that one humanitarian corridor has been designated to “allow the exit of peaceful citizens and the evcuation of sick and wounded from eastern Ghouta.”

“To allow through peaceful residents, with help from the Syrian Red Crescent, a humanitarian corridor has been prepared that exits in the area of the Al-Wafideen crossing,” the ministry said.

The public would be informed with leaflets and text messages and buses and ambulances would be waiting at the crossing to evacuate the sick and wounded, Moscow said.

It said Russian and Syrian military and Damascus officials were coordinating the efforts and urged the rebels’ leaders to de-mine the routes approaching the humanitarian corridor and “give the public the chance to leave Eastern Ghouta”.

Ahead of the planned pauses in fighting, Russia’s defence ministry accused fighters from rebel Islamist groups Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and terrorist al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front of “acting under a single command” and “holding hundreds of hostages, including women and children.”

Moscow also said that Jaish al-Islam was continuing mortar attacks on Damascus, accusing rebels of killing four and wounding more than 50 in the last week. DM

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