Aid convoy prepares to enter Syria's eastern Ghouta

by Reuters
Thursday, 15 March 2018 09:37 GMT

Aid covoy is seen after returning from eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

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Small groups of civilians are due to leave for a third successive day.

(Corrects Iolanda Jaquemet's title to ICRC spokeswoman, from WFP)

BEIRUT, March 15 (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 25 aid trucks were waiting to enter Syria's besieged eastern Ghouta on Thursday.

ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said the convoy, waiting at the al-Wafideen crossing into the rebel-held enclave's northern pocket, contained enough food aid for 26,100 people for one month, among other items.

What was the Syrian opposition's largest piece of territory near the capital Damascus has been split into three encircled pockets by a government offensive that began nearly a month ago.

The aid convoy will head for the town of Douma in the northern pocket, controlled by rebel faction Jaish al-Islam.

It contains 5,220 ICRC food parcels and 5,220 World Food Programme flour bags, Jaquemet said. A parcel can feed a family of five for one month.

Russia said it expected at least 100 civilians to leave eastern Ghouta, where it daily declares a five-hour ceasefire, on Thursday, Interfax news agency reported.

This would be the third successive day on which small groups of civilians have left.

Citing the Centre for Reconciliation in Syria, a body run by Russia's defence ministry, Interfax said eastern Ghouta would receive 137 tonnes of food as humanitarian aid.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said overnight dozens of air strikes hit the southern pocket of eastern Ghouta, controlled by another rebel faction.

Moscow and Damascus say their forces only target armed militants and seek to stop mortar attacks by insurgents that killed dozens of people in the capital. They accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields, which the fighters deny. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet)

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