Philippine Daily Inquirer
SYRIAN FOLK STAY PUT, IGNORE RUSSIAN SAFE PASSAGE OFFER
WAFIDEEN CHECKPOINT— Civilians in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta shunned Russia’s offer to quit the besieged enclave for a second day on Wednesday, as rebels and Moscow blamed each other for the humanitarian deadlock.
The bombardment that killed 600 civilians in 10 days had stopped since the Kremlin ordered a daily “humanitarian pause,” but not one of the battered region’s 400,000 residents left to board buses provided by Bashar Assad.
Assad supporter Russia on Monday announced five-hour halts in the bombardment of the enclave and said it was guaranteeing civilians safe passage to flee.
The move fell far short of a full ceasefire voted upon by the UN Security Council, but was still welcomed inside the enclave as a respite from one of the bloodiest assaults in Syria’s 7-year-old war.
Moscow’s humanitarian pause echoed a similar tactic employed by Russia and the Syrian regime as they looked to force rebels out of Aleppo during a ferocious 2016 battle.
No casualties were reported when Wednesday’s window closed, but warplanes were back in the sky moments later.
The first five-hour pause on Tuesday passed with only two killed in bombardment by Russia and Assad’s forces.
An officer of the Assad military said “terrorists are impeding those whowant to cross, either by putting pressure on them or by firing on humanitarian corridors.”
Inside Eastern Ghouta, residents said they were distrustful of the Russian initiative.
The three main armed groups inside the territory, which lies within mortar range of Damascus, said they wanted more international guarantees.
In a letter sent to the United Nations on Tuesday, they said they were willing to expel the jihadi factions in Eastern Ghouta.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the crisis on the rebels’ “constant shelling.”