Russia and rebels agree on evacuation as Eastern Ghouta bombardment continues

Russia and rebels agree on evacuation as Eastern Ghouta bombardment continues
The civilian death toll has skyrocketed as the Syrian regime continues its brutal campaign against the rebel held province, dividing Eastern Ghouta into three isolated sections.
2 min read
12 March, 2018
The death toll of 1,031 in the three weeks of shelling includes 219 children [AFP]
An agreement was reached between one of Syria's main rebel groups in the besieged enclave and the Assad regime's ally Russia on Monday to evacuate wounded people from Eastern Ghouta, said Jaish al-Islam.

The agreement was reached with the UN meditating between the two parties, as the Syrian government continued its relentless assault of the rebel-held enclave near the capital.

Syrian TV also reported than another group of civilians left Eastern Ghouta through a corridor established by the Syrian army.

The state-run TV broadcast footage showing a small group of people it claims left the town of Medeira on Monday. Medeira was captured by Syrian government troops on Sunday.

Defying global calls for a ceasefire, Syria's government has pursued a ferocious Russian-backed air campaign and ground offensive to capture the region, the last rebel bastion on the capital's doorstep. 

In three weeks of fighting, it has overrun more than half the area and split the remainder into three pockets, isolating the urban hub of Douma from the rest of the enclave. 

Since the escalation of the military offensive against Eastern Ghouta on February 18, over 1,031 civilian have been killed, including 219 children. More than 4,350 have been wounded, reported a war monitor.

Aid groups and NGOs have slammed the regimes brutality, with Save the Children describing the extent of the campaign's destruction as surpassing even the Aleppo crisis in 2016.

The UN's children's agency UNICEF issued a blank statement in response to the unprecedented levels of violence. "UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children's suffering and our outrage," it said.

"Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?"

Eastern Ghouta is home to more than 400,000 people living under a crippling regime siege, with little access to food or medical resources. World leaders and government officials have sharply criticised the Assad regime for its indiscriminate bombing and called for an immediate halt.

The escalating bombing campaign suggests the regime is paving way for a ground assault soon. Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad is keen to retake it, seemingly at any cost.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Monday that about 511,000 people had been killed since the Syrian war began seven years ago.

The Observatory said about 85 percent of the dead had been killed by government forces and their allies, reported Reuters.