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Rebels 'shell humanitarian corridor' in Eastern Ghouta, Russia says

Smoke billows in Eastern Ghouta following a regime airstrike [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 March, 2018

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But locals say they do not trust Russia's unilateral arrangement for a five-hour 'truce' to evacuate the besieged Damascus suburb.
The Russian military on Thursday accused rebels in Eastern Ghouta of shelling a humanitarian corridor it had set up, AP has reported.

Russian Maj General Vladimir told Russian news agencies rebels had been shelling the humanitarian route, which is staffed by Russian and Syrian forces.

The claim was immediately denounced by locals in Eastern Ghouta. "This is not true," Qusay Noor, a photojournalist in the besieged enclave, told The New Arab. "Russia is lying," he added.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin was said to have ordered a five-hour daily "truce" to allow civilians to evacuate Eastern Ghouta, which is home to 400,000 people and has been subject to a heavy bombing campaign that has left more than 600 dead since 18 February.

So far, no humanitarian aid has entered the besieged Damascus suburb, and only two civilians - a Pakistani couple - have left the area, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication.

Residents say they do not trust the Russia-led truce and UN aid agencies criticised the unilateral arrangement - which sidesteps a UN 30-day ceasefire that was agreed on Saturday.

The state-run al-Ikhbariya TV reported that rebels prevented dozens of civilians from reaching a crossing point into regime-held areas.

Residents in Eastern Ghouta fear their region will suffer a similar fate as Eastern Aleppo

The UN ceasefire, sponsored by Security Council members Sweden and Kuwait, was amended at Russia's behest to allow Moscow and Damascus to continue to bomb those it claims are Islamic State group and Tahrir al-Sham fighters. Russia is one of five veto members at the UN body.

World leaders have accused Moscow and Damascus of using the fight against terrorism as a pretext for deadly military assaults in Syria that mostly hit civilians.

Residents in Eastern Ghouta fear their region will suffer a similar fate as Eastern Aleppo, which in 2016 fell under regime control following a ground offensive and a similar Russian proposal that asked residents to leave the area.

Despite the daily truce that went into effect at 9am today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said three were killed following regime shelling and airstrikes later on Thursday morning. Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported eight dead from the bombardent on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the state-run SANA news agency said that a civilian was wounded by a rebel-fired mortar shell from Eastern Ghouta that landed in the Bab al-Salam area of Damascus.

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