On Sunday night, a group of 52 civilians, half of whom were children, managed to leave the embattled Damascus suburb with the assistance of the Russian Center for Reconciliation and the Syrian Army. They have been taken to a former driving school in the town of Adra, northeast of Damascus.
“Within two days they will be provided with all the necessary assistance, including medical help,” the spokesman for the reconciliation center, Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin, told reporters on Sunday.
Eastern Ghouta, a militant-held suburb of Damascus, has been the scene of intense fighting in the past month, with terrorists shelling civilian areas of Damascus and targeting those who are trying to flee the terrorist enclave.
“We lived in fear under the militants, there were very harsh conditions. They drove up food prices, introduced a strict regime – you could lose your head for the slightest fault,” a local who left the area told reporters, expressing gratitude for being taken out. He added that the area they had left, Misraba, had been taken over by Syrian forces and the situation there had stabilized.
“Seven years we have suffered. All of us in Misrab remained neutral. But we couldn’t leave from there, couldn’t do anything. They didn’t let us go, controlled us and pressured us,” a woman recalled.
“We haven’t seen anything that was sent to us. No money, no dollars, they took everything away. They completely robbed us,” she lamented.
Civilians were able to leave after the Russian and Syrian militaries held talks with the armed groups controlling the area. The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria offered the militants and their families an opportunity to leave Eastern Ghouta with the guarantee of their safety in exchange for allowing the passage of civilians, according to Zolotukhin. Earlier this week, the first group of militants surrendered their arms and left the rebel-controlled Damascus suburb.
Previously, only two children managed to escape from Eastern Ghouta, as the militants constantly shelled and opened fire at people trying to flee and attacked humanitarian aid convoys. The Russian military has repeatedly said that the terrorists use locals as human shields and shelter in civilian infrastructure. Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the militants had imposed a curfew in the area to prevent locals from escaping and punished people in public for violation of the rule.