Russian Military Says Syrian Rebels Can Leave Ghouta

Thursday, 08 Mar, 2018

Meanwhile, the United Nations believes that over 400,000 people continue to be trapped in Eastern Ghouta, where supplies are quickly running out and aid convoys are struggling to get through.

At least 800 civilians have been killed since February 18, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Aksoy said Turkey would tell US officials that Ankara expects Washington to take concrete steps on retrieving weapons that the United States has provided to Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Of the 14, four were partially offloaded, he said.

Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says there has been no letup to the government's assault on the rebel-held suburbs. "Food for civilians was in short supply or prohibitively expensive and high rates of acute malnutrition were observed", he said.

The delivery of humanitarian aid and medicine to civilians was under threat of disruption due to the two-hour delay which was caused by prolonged talks between jihadists and convoy members.

Speaking on Tuesday, a day after a rare humanitarian mission to eastern Ghouta that was cut short because of the shelling, he says schools have stopped and some children have not seen daylight for 15 days.

She spoke from Damascus to The Associated Press as a 46-truck convoy was entering the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta, marking the first delivery of humanitarian assistance to the area in almost three weeks. It accused the government of using "poison gas".

More than nine civilians have been killed so far on Tuesday in regime airstrikes with the UN's refugee agency saying regime shelling had forced it to abandoned plans for delivering aid.

Netherlands U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom was speaking after the Council was briefed behind closed doors on the situation in Syria at the request of Britain and France.

The Observatory had earlier reported 18 dead in Ghouta on Wednesday.

He says that "nearly half of the food carried on the convoy" could not be delivered. The military spokesman for one of the main eastern Ghouta rebel groups said rebels would defend the territory and there were no negotiations over a withdrawal.

NPR reported yesterday that attacks on eastern Ghouta continued even as a 46-truck interagency aid convoy made its way into eastern Ghouta. United Nations officials have complained for years about such actions by the Syrian government.

All U.N. vehicles and OCHA staff should be allowed to enter the biggest eastern Ghouta town of Douma on Thursday with the medical supplies that were removed on Monday, and without their vehicles being subjected to inspections, he said.

Claims from President Bashar al Assad that his forces are doing all it can to protect civilians in the two-week-old offensive on eastern Ghouta are "frankly ridiculous", human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Wednesday.

USA officials have warned that Turkey's offensive could undermine the fight against the IS. "The people sit with multiple families, with thousands of families in basement shelters", he said.