Syria war: UN expects Eastern Ghouta civilian evacuations

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The United Nations is expecting civilian evacuations out of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, as the Syrian government military continues its fierce offensive on the enclave.

“This day, we are expecting evacuation of civilians, including people with medical conditions,” Ali al-Zatari, the UN’s top aid official in Syria, told Reuters news agency at al-Wafideen crossing, without elaborating.

The UN has previously called for the evacuation of nearly 1,000 sick and wounded residents who need urgent medical treatment.

Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta, said on Monday it had reached an agreement with the government’s key ally, Russia, to evacuate wounded people. No other details about the evacuation were given.

Hamza Birqdar, the group’s military spokesman, vowed on Tuesday that the fighters would defend the Damascus suburb till the end.

Syrian state TV showed a group of civilians leaving the enclave on Tuesday morning. The evacuations have not been independently confirmed.

The Syrian army’s campaign of air and artillery attacks has killed more than 1,100 civilians in nearly a month, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Syrian government forces have captured more than half the enclave, splintering it as they seek to crush the last major rebel bastion near the capital Damascus.

Their advances have cut off Douma and Harasta from each other and from other neighbouring towns.

Families are sleeping in the open in the streets in Douma, Ghouta’s biggest town, with no more room in basements to shelter from the bombs, local authorities have said.

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