World, Middle East

Opposition gives armed groups 15 days to exit E.Ghouta

Opposition groups say they will facilitate and ensure the safety of aid convoys bound for the besieged Damascus suburb

Ekip  | 28.02.2018 - Update : 01.03.2018
Opposition gives armed groups 15 days to exit E.Ghouta A Syrian inspects debris of a destroyed building after Assad regime carried out an airstrike to Arbin town of Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria on February 27, 2018. ( Diaa Al Din Samout - Anadolu Agency )


By Adham Kako and Mohamed Misto


Opposition groups and civilian institutions in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district have told the UN that individuals linked to certain armed groups would be expelled from the region within 15 days of the implementation of a UN-backed ceasefire.

In a letter sent to the UN, the largest armed opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta (including Jaish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham), along with several civilian institutions, voiced support for UN Security Council Resolution 2401.

Adopted unanimously on Saturday, the resolution calls for a 30-day ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta to allow the delivery of badly-needed humanitarian aid.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Anadolu Agency, opposition groups and civilian institutions expressed commitment to cooperating with the UN to remove individuals linked to certain armed groups from Eastern Ghouta -- along with their families -- within 15 days of the ceasefire’s implementation.

The letter also addressed Eastern Ghouta’s dire humanitarian situation, saying that opposition groups would facilitate -- and ensure the safety of -- aid convoys bound for the besieged Damascus suburb.

It also called for an end to Russian airstrikes and attacks by the Assad regime and its allies on opposition-held parts of Eastern Ghouta, and for the transport of injured people to hospitals abroad for treatment.

The letter went on to decry ongoing attacks on civilians, health facilities and educational institutions in Eastern Ghouta.

According to Wael Ulwan, a spokesman for Faylaq al-Rahman, Russia is trying “in every possible way” to prevent the implementation of the UN's ceasefire resolution.

“No humanitarian aid has reached the region, while the attacks have only increased in intensity,” he said.

"We [Faylaq al-Rahman] have condemned Russia’s decision to implement a daily five-hour ceasefire [or “humanitarian pause”], which was taken despite the UN resolution,” he added.

“The UN decision is clear,” Ulwan said. “Russia has displaced many of the region’s people and continues to threaten them with attacks and sieges. That’s why we sent the letter to the UN.”

“Armed groups cannot be forced to do anything they don't want to do,” he asserted. “We’re only trying to ensure the safety of civilians, who can’t leave their homes due to continued attacks."

Russian claims that opposition groups were targeting civilians -- and preventing them from using evacuation corridors -- were “mere lies”, according to Ulwan.

Lamenting the fact that Russia had continued its attacks despite the announcement of daily five-hour “humanitarian pauses”, Ulwan said: "People of the region don't trust the [Assad] regime. They don't want to leave their neighborhoods."

UNSC Resolution 2401 is intended primarily to allow humanitarian and medical aid into Eastern Ghouta, which for the last five years has groaned under a crippling siege imposed by the Assad regime.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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