Sick and injured people were evacuated from the war-torn eastern Ghouta Last Tuesday, marking the first medical evacuation in the Syrian war since the Syrian government launched intensified attacks on the rebel-held suburb of Damascus nearly a month ago.
The evacuation comes after rebel forces struck a deal with the government’s key ally, Russia, to evacuate wounded people from the battlefield. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, more than 150 civilians were taken out of eastern Ghouta Tuesday.
The Syrian state news also broadcasted footage showing patients being attended to by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, as more injured individuals arrive at the al-Wafideen crossing.
For weeks, the United Nations has been calling for a medical evacuation amid the intense fighting between the rebel forces and the pro-government troops in the area. The U.N. has previously provided a list of more than 1,000 people in eastern Ghouta that require emergency medical attention.
The plight of civilians in eastern Ghouta has received increased international attention in the past month, as the Syrian regime carried out intensified bombardment against the rebel-controlled area, through relentless air strikes. According to the U.N., the unrelenting offensive has trapped an estimated 400,000 people in the area without food and medicine. The U.N. has estimated civilian casualties in the suburb to be more than 1,100 as the Syrian offensive continues.
The intensified attacks on the last rebel stronghold near the capital are in line with President Bashar al-Assad’s mission to recapture territories and reassert his control over the entire country. In a recent offensive, government forces have reportedly divided the rebel territory, cutting off important towns from each other.
The Syrian and Russian coalition has offered safe passage to rebels their families if they agree to withdraw their forces in the area and surrender their territory. However, the biggest insurgent groups are determined to hold their ground and fight against the regime until the end.