Food trucks have delivered much-needed supplies to eastern Ghouta. It came as the first group of al-Qaeda linked rebels were transported out of the enclave to northwestern Syria.
An emergency aid convoy was able to cross the battlefield into Syria's eastern Ghouta on Friday after weeks of indiscriminate shelling. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 13 trucks loaded with supplies for 12,000 besieged civilians were delivered before renewed violence forced them to pull out again.
"We call on all warring sides for an immediate humanitarian pause," to fighting, said ICRC regional director Robert Mardini, who said he was "taken aback by the renewed violence" during the aid delivery.
Conflicting reports from the area did not make clear whether the ICRC, UN or Syrian Red Crescent had delivered the supplies. According to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Ali al-Zaatari, the resumption of hostilities meant the expected medical aid could not be delivered until Monday.
'Hell on Earth'
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said that 15 of the 20 medical facilities it uses in eastern Ghouta have been bombed and that doctors and nurses on the ground have run out of many life-saving necessities.
Observers estimate that 950 civilians have been killed since the Russia-backed Syrian government forces launched an unrelenting assault on the rebel enclave outside Damascus on February 18. The lack of medical supplies, food and basic necessities has made the situation in eastern Ghouta a "hell on Earth," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the bombardment of eastern Ghouta is necessary to root out Islamist militants who have taken over the area. But UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has criticized this claim, calling the offensive "legally and morally unsustainable."
Separately, a group militants from the al-Qaeda linked Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) left eastern Ghouta through a humanitarian corridor late Friday. Syrian state television carried footage of the fighters leaving the rebel enclave to Idlib province, where HTS is the dominant force.
Eastern Ghouta is largely controlled by the Jaish al-Islam rebel group and rival Faylaq al Rahman. However, the presence of more than 200 HTS fighters in the besieged enclave has been used by Russia and the Syrian regime to continue attacks.
cw, es/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)