Red Crescent: 1,500 evacuated from besieged Damascus suburb

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Syria's Red Crescent said Sunday that it has evacuated at least 1,500 people since the previous day from a Damascus suburb besieged by the Syrian army for months.

“Around 1,500 people, most of them women and children, were evacuated from a point on the outskirts of Moadamiyet al-Sham and taken to shelters,” Red Crescent head of operations Khaled Erksoussi told AFP.

He said the evacuated civilians “were in a state of major fatigue and were very scared.”

Moadamiyet al-Sham, a suburb southwest of the capital, is largely controlled by rebels seeking the overthrow of the government, though pockets remain under regime control.

The Syrian army has laid siege to the area for months, and bombed it near-daily, with the opposition accusing it of creating a situation in which residents are starving to death.

It was also one of the neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Damascus hit in an August 21 sarin gas attack the opposition blamed on the regime and that reportedly killed hundreds.

But the Syrian government says the opposition are holding residents of the district hostage.

The official SANA news agency reported the evacuation, saying the Ministry of Social Affairs worked in cooperation with the Red Crescent on the move “as part of its efforts to protect citizens from terrorists.”

A video distributed by SANA showed hundreds of people, almost all of them women and children, streaming towards a convoy of buses, assisted at times by officials from the Red Crescent.

Footage broadcast on state television showed Social Affairs Minister Kinda Shmat and soldiers welcoming the evacuees as they arrived.

Erksoussi said Red Crescent officials were unable to enter Moadamiyet al-Sham “to provide treatment to the wounded, who were we not able to evacuate.”

He did not confirm whether the evacuation was the result of an agreement between the rebels and the regime, saying only that the Red Crescent “received guarantees that it could carry out this operation.”