Philippine Daily Inquirer

SYRIAN FOLK STAY PUT, IGNORE RUSSIAN SAFE PASSAGE OFFER

- —AFP

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.

No ceasefire

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.

Rebels blamed

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.”

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