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Syrian boys in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus in January.
Syrian boys in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus in January.

Turkey, Russia Arranging Evacuation of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta Residents

The East Ghouta region is one of the last strongholds of rebels fighting the Syrian army. The Syrian government says the rebels have used the population there as human shield and hostages, preventing international aid from reaching those who need it

Turkey, Russia Arranging Evacuation of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta Residents

Turkey is working with Russia to evacuate around 500 people from the besieged Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
“There are around 500 people, including 170 children and women who need urgent humanitarian aid,” Erdogan said ahead of his departure on an official visit to Sudan, Middle East Eye reported.
Erdogan said he had discussed the issue with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Ankara aimed to bring people in need of assistance to Turkey to provide treatment and care.
The Russian and Turkish chiefs of staff would discuss the steps to be taken in operations that would also involve the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Organization, Erdogan said.
On Thursday, Jan Egeland, head of the UN’s humanitarian taskforce for Syria, said at least 16 people have died while waiting for medical evacuation.
Egeland said the list of those in desperate need of evacuation was rapidly shrinking.
“That number is going down, not because we are evacuating people, but because they are dying,” he told reporters in Geneva.
“We have confirmation of 16 having died on these lists since they were resubmitted in November, and it is probably higher,” he said, highlighting the case of a baby who died on 14 December, as the latest round of Syria peace talks in Geneva ended in failure.
“I fear there will be many more. During this Christmas and holiday season, there will be more deaths unless we get evacuation going,” he said.
The East Ghouta region is one of the last strongholds of rebels fighting the Syrian Army forces. The Syrian government says the rebels have used the population there as human shield and hostages, preventing international aid from reaching those who need it.
Bassam Khabieh, a Ghouta-based photographer who in late October documented the grim effects of malnutrition on the district’s children, told Middle East Eye last month that the situation in the district was becoming increasingly dire.
“Food is in short supply,” he said. “And it is so expensive. Most important medicines are missing now, especially those used for cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.”
More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions have been driven from their homes since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011.

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