A “humanitarian pause” announced by Russia in Syria’s deadly bombardment of Eastern Ghouta failed to end violence, with fresh bloodshed and no sign of aid deliveries or residents leaving the besieged enclave.
Nine days after Russian-backed regime forces intensified their campaign against the rebel-held enclave, the deal offered some respite to civilians who had been hiding in their basements.
But the first day of a five-hour daily “pause” that was ordered by President Vladimir Putin was marred by violence that saw seven people killed.
Moscow’s plan falls short of a broader 30-day ceasefire it agreed to at the United Nations Security Council but which has yet to take effect, and has inspired little trust from among the besieged enclave’s 400,000 residents.
The regime deployed buses at the Al-Wafideen checkpoint to transport residents wanting to use a humanitarian corridor to flee what UN Chief Antonio Guterres last called “Hell on Earth”.
But no civilians were seen venturing towards the regime forces guarding the checkpoint, where large portraits of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Putin could be seen side-by-side.
The “humanitarian pause” ordered by Putin echoed a similar tactic employed by Russia and Syrian regime during the ferocious battle to force rebels out of Aleppo in 2016.
Russia’s defense ministry accused armed groups in eastern Ghouta of shelling the corridor, and said rebel fighters had “continued attacking the positions of the government forces” and “went on the offensive in other directions too”.
Syrian state news agency Sana said a former Al-Qaeda affiliate present in the enclave was blocking civilians “to use them as human shields”.