Syria: More than 10000 people flee eastern Ghouta as fighting intensifies

Last month, the Syrian government kicked off a campaign to liberate the area.

The UN estimates there were about 400,000 people living in eastern Ghouta, which has been under government siege since 2013 and was controlled by a number of rebel groups fighting to remove Syrian President Bashar Al Assad from power.

Zolotukhin, who serves as a spokesman for the Russian Center for Reconciliation, said that those fleeing were using a government-run humanitarian corridor overseen by Russia's military.

"This is not new for the people of Eastern Ghouta: people who've been trapped in a cruel siege for almost six years are now being attacked daily, killed and maimed by their government".

The Observatory said 30 people were killed in a Saturday morning airstrike on Zamalka that hit a group of people trying to flee into government-controlled areas.

Earlier this week, smaller groups of sick and wounded people were evacuated from another zone further north, under a deal the Jaish al-Islam rebel faction that controls it and Russian Federation.

"As you know, any trip to Syria is formally discouraged and those French journalists still present in the country are invited to leave immediately", she said.

The rebel factions accuse Damascus of trying to depopulate opposition towns and deny its charges that they have blocked people from leaving.

An army officer in charge of arrivals in Adra said authorities had dispersed 25,000 people in recent days across temporary shelters there and in two nearby towns. "They fired at him and brought down the flag", the unnamed man said. "They said now we were within the state's embrace", he recalled.

An estimated 12,000-16,000 people had already left Ghouta before Saturday, while fighting in Afrin had reportedly displaced more than 48,000, a United Nations aid official in Syria has said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights could not say who carried out the strikes on the town of Zamalka in a southern pocket of the enclave. Ankara sees the Kurdish forces as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK which has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey. Hevi Mustafa, a senior member of the civil authority that governs Afrin, said people fled the main town to other Kurdish-held parts of the region and to government territory. The YPG and the Observatory had said a Turkish air strike on the town's main hospital killed 16 people the night before.

State TV showed interviews with people crossing the front, in which they said the Ghouta insurgents had not let them out before.

  • Rogelio Becker