Thousands Flee Ghouta Amid Syrian Military Push

Casey Dawson
March 16, 2018

Civilians in Eastern Ghouta have begun to flee to government-controlled areas as fighting intensifies in the besieged rebel enclave of Damascus, a heavy blow to opposition forces on the same day Syria marks the seventh anniversary of its bloody civil war.

The AFP news agency reported that residents, a lot of them women and children, were seen fleeing on foot, in cars, and on motorcycles via the town of Hammuriyeh, where the Syrian Army opened a corridor.

"We're afraid for their lives and how they might be treated". The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for his own safety.

The U.N. estimates that close to 400,000 people are trapped inside the government's siege of eastern Ghouta.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is rejecting calls in Europe for his country to halt its military offensive in a Syrian Kurdish-held enclave.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher death toll, saying 10 were killed.

There was no comment from the Turkish or Syrian government.

The militia controls the Afrin region on the border with Turkey, and Ankara is wary of Kurdish aspirations for autonomy, labelling the YPG a "terror group".

Addressing the European Parliament, Erdogan said: "Don't get too excited".

"People are going insane, we don't know what awaits us", she said.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said shelling was heard in Douma as the 25-truck convoy entered.

"The air strikes and artillery shelling have not calmed down", said Birusk Hasaka, the YPG spokesman in Afrin.

IDF retaliates following explosion on northern Gaza border
Hamdallah was not injured and left Gaza shortly after incident, Arab media reported. The IDF responded with aerial and tank attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Using a corridor through Hammuriyeh newly seized by the army, they flee on foot, in cars and on motorcycles to the government-held checkpoint of Adra. They say rebels are preventing civilians from escaping.

Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on January 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish forces that it considers to be "terrorists" and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Assad's comments were published on the official presidency Telegram channel Wednesday.

A total of 3,525 terrorists have been "neutralized" since the start of the operation in Afrin, the president said.

The Syrian conflict enters its eighth year this week.

Thursday's civilian exodus underscored the intractability of a conflict that has invited world powers to stake out their spheres of influence in the fragmented country.

In September 2015, Russian Federation launches air strikes in support of Assad's troops, who are on the back foot.

The TV showed footage of men, women and children streaming out of the besieged region, carrying their belongings including clothes, mattresses and suitcases. At least two ambulances and a bus brought patients and their families. Air strikes on the town of Zamalka there killed 12 people on Thursday, it said.

Since mid-February, Syrian troops have targeted the capital's sprawling eastern Ghouta region with shells, airstrikes and, at times, even toxic gas, according to opposition medics.

Local authorities outside the Syrian capital say government forces have cut off their town from a surrounding rebel-held enclave, isolating 20,000 residents with no access to aid.

It appears to be the largest departure of civilianss from eastern Ghouta since the government launched a punishing assault on the rebel-held region more than three weeks ago.

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