Syrians stream out of rebel-held Ghouta town as army advances

Hundreds of Syrians fled a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta on Thursday and crossed by foot to government-held positions, as the army pressed its advance into the last major opposition stronghold near Damascus, a Reuters witness said.

Men, women and children carrying blankets, bags and suitcases walked along a dirt road toward government-held positions on the outskirts of Hammouriyeh town, footage broadcast by al-Mayadeen, a pro-government TV station, showed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 3,000 people had left Hammouriyeh town toward positions held by advancing government forces, which have splintered eastern Ghouta into three separate pockets.

It marked the first time a large group of people had fled the enclave since the army launched an offensive to recapture it last month, Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said.

Earlier this week, scores of sick and wounded people were evacuated from eastern Ghouta.

What had been the Syrian opposition’s largest piece of territory near the capital Damascus has been split into three encircled pockets by a government offensive that began nearly a month ago.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 25 aid trucks entered its northern pocket, controlled by rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, and was headed to the town of Douma.

ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said the convoy, which entered through the al-Wafideen crossing, contained enough food aid for 26,100 people for one month, among other items.

The convoy contained 5,220 ICRC food parcels and 5,220 World Food Programme flour bags, Jaquemet said. A parcel can feed a family of five for one month.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said overnight dozens of air strikes and shelling hit eastern Ghouta’s southern pocket.

Moscow and Damascus say their forces only target armed militants and seek to stop mortar attacks by insurgents that killed dozens of people in the capital. They accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields, which the fighters deny.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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