Russia-backed truce comes into effect in E. Ghouta

Rasha Khalaf

DAMASCUS: A five-hour humanitarian pause called by Russia came into effect in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a daily pause to airstrikes in the besieged area from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (0600 GMT to 1100 GMT).

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said a humanitarian corridor will be open for civilians to exit the region during the truce.

The location of the corridor will be announced soon, Shoigu pledged.

Russian General Viktor Pankov said on Tuesday, civilians could not leave eastern Ghouta as humanitarian corridors had been shelled by militants.

The humanitarian pause in the besieged, rebel-held eastern Ghouta area of Damascus entered into force earlier in the day.

“At 9am on February 27, a humanitarian corridor was opened for the release of civilians from the zone of de-escalation,” RIA Novosti quoted Pankov as saying.

The general, who heads a group supervising a de-escalation zone in eastern Ghouta, added that “militants launched intense shelling and not a single civilian has come out.”

Separate reports say that the Syrian army resumed its operation in eastern Ghouta after breaking through the frontlines of the Jaysh al-Islam terrorist group dominating the area.

On Saturday, the  United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire in Eastern Ghouta.

Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area has been completely cut off.

In the past eight months, forces of the Bashar Assad regime have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.

Hundreds have been killed by Assad regime airstrikes just in recent days.

Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

According to United Nations officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict to date. (AA)