Syrians leave east Ghouta for second day

By , 25/04/2020 19:38

Thousands of Syrians have fled their homes after government troops descend on civilian centers.Air strikes have killed dozens of people in eastern Ghouta while Syrians fled rebel territory toward government positions for a second day, a war monitor says, as the government pressed its advance on the biggest opposition bastion near Damascus.
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On another front in the multi-sided Syrian war, Turkish forces shelled the northern Kurdish-held town of Afrin heavily, killing at least 18 people and forcing 2500 people to flee, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported.

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the stated target of the Afrin offensive, said it battled Turkish forces and their Syrian militia allies that tried to storm the town from the north.

The Syrian war entered its eighth year this week having killed half a million people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, including nearly 6 million who have fled abroad in one of the worst refugee crises of modern times.

The two main battles under way now are the government’s assault on eastern Ghouta, which began a month ago, and the Turkish assault on Afrin, launched in January.

In both cases, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside areas encircled on the battlefield.

Backed by Russia and Iran, government forces have thrust deep into eastern Ghouta, splintering the area into three separate enclaves. The United Nations believes up to 400,000 people have been trapped inside the rebel-held area of densely populated farms and satellite towns on the outskirts of the capital, with virtually no access to food or medicine.

Moscow and Damascus accuse the rebels of having forced people to stay in harm’s way to use them as human shields. The rebels deny this and say the aim of the government assault is to depopulate opposition areas.

The Observatory said air strikes in eastern Ghouta killed 31 people in the town of Kafr Batna and another 10 people in Saqba. It said Russian aircraft had carried out the strikes. Syrians believe they can distinguish Russian aircraft from those of the Syrian army because the Russians fly at higher altitude.

Russian news agencies reported that around 3300 people had left eastern Ghouta on Friday morning. The Observatory put the early figure at several hundred.

Many thousands fled the southernmost of the three Ghouta pockets on Thursday, the first mass exodus from the area since the government unleashed one of the deadliest offensives of the war. Russia said more than 12,000 people left on Thursday.

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