An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 shows United Nations inspectors leaving Damascus' Moadamiyet al-Sham suburb
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 shows United Nations inspectors leaving Damascus' Moadamiyet al-Sham suburb © - Moadamiyet al-Sham media center/AFP
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 shows United Nations inspectors leaving Damascus' Moadamiyet al-Sham suburb
AFP
Last updated: October 13, 2013

1,500 evacuated from besieged Damascus suburb: Red Crescent

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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", adding that they were taken to shelters in Damascus province.

State news agency SANA said 2,000 people had been evacuated.

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".

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

The 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.

At the end of August, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO, reported two children aged three and seven had died from a disease related to malnutrition.

The group said the siege, which began in April, had prevented doctors from bringing in food or medicine to save the children.

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 government accuses the opposition of holding residents of the district hostage.

SANA said the social affairs ministry worked in cooperation with the Red Crescent on the evacuation "as part of its efforts to protect citizens from terrorists".

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

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

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