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Despite ceasefire, Syrian rebels fire at humanitarian corridor in Eastern Ghouta

Moscow also accused Syrian rebel fighters of firing mortar shells at a humanitarian corridor in the area between Harasta and Douma.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2018 23:37 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, Douma
Syria,Syria crisis,Syria Ceasefire
A general view taken from a government-held area in Damascus shows smoke rising from the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.(AFP Photo)

Rebels in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta have gone on the offensive despite attempts to hold a “humanitarian pause”, the Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday.

“During the ‘humanitarian pause’ fighters from armed groups continued attacking the positions of the government forces in the areas of Hazrama and Nashabia settlements and after 1 pm went on the offensive in other directions too,” the ministry said in a statement.

“These actions were accompanied by intensive artillery fire and small arms fire.”

Moscow also accused fighters of firing mortar shells at a humanitarian corridor in the area between Harasta and Douma.

“Mines exploded 500 metres from a checkpoint,” the statement said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday ordered a daily “pause” from 9 am to 2 pm to evacuate civilians from the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, following a UN Security Council weekend vote to approve a 30-day truce.

The United Nations said earlier today that fighting has raged on in the area making relief operations impossible.

Truce a farce

It singled out the former Al-Qaeda affiliate present in some parts of the enclave, accusing it of blocking civilians “to use them as human shields”.

Some residents left the basements they had been cowering in for days to check on their property and buy food.

International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet told AFP that any evacuation needed deeper coordination.

“Under international humanitarian law, humanitarian corridors are things which need to be well planned and must be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides, not only with one side,” she said.

More than 550 civilians, almost a quarter of them children, have been killed since February 18 in the Syrian and Russian bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, making it one of the bloodiest episodes of the country’s seven-year-old conflict.

Violence levels were significantly lower on Tuesday as the “humanitarian pause” kicked in but six civilians were killed by regime bombardment, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Two of the victims were killed before the declared five-hour window, two during and two after, the Britain-based group said, adding that the bombardment intensified again after 2:00 pm (1200 GMT).

In Hammuriyeh, another town in the sprawling semi-rural enclave, Mohammed Abdullah said the pause left civilians with a choice between two evils.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 23:37 IST