A UN official has confirmed that rebels in Damascus had agreed to release government workers in exchange for children waiting to evacuate the area, a news report has revealed. This has raised concerns over children being used as bargaining chips for such transactions.
According to the BBC report, 12 patients were evacuated on Wednesday with 13 further urgent cases to be evacuated on Thursday. The Syrian American Medical Society (Sams) is keeping people updated with news of the most recent evacuations from Eastern Ghouta on their twitter.
Mohamad Katoub, a doctor with Sams said “The last patient was a girl from the list, from the 29. This morning, when the local staff reached the family to tell them that finally the approval to evacuate your little daughter arrived, the family said that our daughter died a few days ago.”
According to the report, he reiterated, that it was difficult to keep up with evacuees as people continued to die. Around 400,000 residents have been under siege by government forces since 2013.
Update from evacuations in besieged #EastGhouta: 12 children were evacuated from the area today to receive medical care in #Damascus. Remainder of evacuations will occur tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/OgwJJLqmVq— SAMS (@sams_usa) December 27, 2017
Egeland said that it is a not a good agreement if they exchange sick children for detainees that means children become bargaining chips in some tug of war. “That shouldn't happen. They have a right to the evacuation and we have an obligation to evacuate them.”
Jaysh al-Islam, the main rebel group in Eastern Ghouta tweeted that the government had agreed to evacuations in exchange for the release of 29 of its prisoners. “The Syrian war has been a war against the medical profession in many ways.” Egeland said.
Despite Eastern Ghouta being designated a “de-escalation zone” by Russia and Iran, along with Turkey, which backs the opposition, hostilities intensified six weeks ago.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hoped that a total of 29 people would be evacuated over the coming few days.
“We hope this medical evacuation will only be the beginning of more to come, as there are many more people in need. It is also vital for humanitarian organisations to reach people in Eastern Ghouta with aid,” Anastasia Isyuk told the BBC.