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Syria: Russia to start ‘humanitarian pause’ in E Ghouta

27th Feb 2018
Syria: Russia to start ‘humanitarian pause’ in E Ghouta

By Elena Teslova


MOSCOW (AA): Russia will introduce a daily humanitarian pause in Syria’s besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta as of Feb. 27 by order of President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Monday. UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has criticised the the Russian move and called it a “Russian playbook”.

Hundreds of civilians and rebels have been killed in east Ghouta. Johnson refused to criticise rebels who are bombing Syrian capital Damascus killing civilians too. When he was asked by BBC’s Today programme this morning whether he had used UK’s influence with Saudi Arabia to ask them to tell one of the rebel groups,  Jaysh al Islam, which Saudi Arabia is alleged to be supporting, to respect the ceasefire, Johnson replied that he had not. “I don’t think that Saudi Arabia is involved,” he replied.

Jaysh al Islam is the largest rebel group in the eastern Ghouta region, with an estimated 15,000 members.

A humanitarian corridor will be open for civilians to exit the region every day from 9 am till 2 pm (0600-1100GMT), said Shoigu, speaking to the Defense Ministry Board.

The location of the corridor will be announced soon, Shoigu pledged.

Similar humanitarian corridors have been suggested for near Al-Tanf and Rukban, Shoigu added.

Russia also offered to establish an international humanitarian commission under the UN that would be able to enter Raqqah to evaluate the situation, he

Russia’s foreign minister on Monday also discussed with his German and Jordanian counterparts on the phone the humanitarian pause for Eastern Ghouta.

Sergey Lavrov told Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel the steps Russia is going to take to solve humanitarian problems in the region, said the Foreign Service’s official website.

He also urged Gabriel to try to convince the U.S.-led coalition to perform similar actions to facilitate the humanitarian situation in other regions of Syria.

Lavrov also asked Jordan’s Ayman al-Safadi to take similar steps for a humanitarian pause near Al-Tanf and Rukban.

UN: 30 dead in last 48 hours

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday said at least 30 people, including women and children, have been killed in the last 48 hours in eastern Ghouta.

“Since Feb. 19, escalating hostilities have resulted in 500 deaths and some 1,500 injuries in eastern Ghouta. A total of 24 health facilities in eastern Ghouta were reportedly impacted by shelling and airstrikes, in addition to three humanitarian sites,” he told reporters.

Dujarric said during the same period, attacks on Damascus and the governorate resulted in 14 deaths and 214 injuries.

Commenting on Russia’s humanitarian pause, Dujarric said: “Five hours is better than no hours but we would like to see any cessation of hostilities be extended 30 days as the Security Council has said but we will effort to do whatever we can within the time that we are able to work.”

On Sunday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria without delay.

Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.

In the past eight months, forces of the Assad Government have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.

Hundreds have been killed by Assad regime airstrikes just in recent days.

Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict to date.

* Anadolu Agancy correspondent Betul Yuruk at the UN in New York contributed to this story.

Additional reporting by The Muslim News

[Photo:  Smoke rises after Syrian airstrikes over the Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on February 25, 2018.

Photographer: Mouneb Taim/AA]

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