Damascus: Civilians in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta enclave shunned Russia’s offer of safe passage for a second day Wednesday, as rebels and Moscow blamed each other for the humanitarian deadlock. The bombardment that killed 600 civilians in 10 days largely stopped but not one of the battered region’s 400,000 residents left to board the buses provided by the regime.
News agency reporters saw no movement at the Wafideen checkpoint through which would-be evacuees were told to exit Eastern Ghouta, which the government lost in 2012 and has besieged almost ever since. “The humanitarian corridor is open to all those who wish to return to the fold of the homeland, but so far nobody came and this is the second day,” said a military officer at the checkpoint. Russia on Monday announced a “humanitarian pause” in the bombardment of the enclave that would provide five hours every day for civilians to flee safely.
The move was welcomed inside and outside the enclave as respite from one of the bloodiest assaults in Syria’s seven-year-old war. But the hundreds of civilians in need of medical evacuation were not coming out nor were any aid convoys going in. The Syrian regime has accused the Islamist and jihadist groups inside Ghouta of sabotaging the initiative by shelling the designated humanitarian corridors to hold civilians as human shields.
“The terrorists are impeding those who want to cross, either by putting pressure on them or by firing on the humanitarian corridors,” the military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.