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5 Mar, 2018 13:40

Militants shell & shoot at escapees from E. Ghouta, may use them as human shields – Syrian nun to RT

People trying to flee Eastern Ghouta are shelled or sniped by rebels who may keep them as human shields, a Syrian Christian nun told RT. Days earlier, two local kids managed to escape the embattled area under militants’ fire.

Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, mother superior of St James Monastery in Syria’s Homs province, told RT that the conditions facing Ghouta civilians are dismal. An escape route has been set up for people desperate to flee, but until now, few were lucky enough to escape.

“Until today, this corridor hasn’t been successful, I regret to say it,” Mother Agnes said, “because there is the will on the rebel side to keep the civilians under their custody and maybe to use them as human shield.”

Located not far from Syria’s capital Damascus, Eastern Ghouta was held by militants for several years until late January, when Syrian troops launched a major offensive in a bid to recapture the area. There is a UN refugee camp located north of the Ghouta area, which provides food supplies and medical assistance for those leaving the embattled city.

“Going from Ghouta to the camp is very dangerous, people are shelled and they are sniped, and we have witnessed this,” Mother Agnes said. "Our team was there in contact with families inside Ghouta." She added that, despite arrangements being made by monastery staff and the Red Crescent, desperate civilians cannot flee because of militant fire.

Meanwhile, people within the city bear the brunt of living on the frontline. “I know that inside Ghouta there is no food, there is sometimes no water,” Mother Agnes explained. “And those people, they want to live.”

Women are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence and widespread abuse, she revealed, stating that 25 percent of female evacuees were assaulted by “people in control, the armed men.”

The international community, including the UN and other actors, “[should] really state to the rebels to protect the corridor, not to shell the corridor, and not to put pressure on the people wanting to leave,” the mother superior urged.

Mother Agnes was speaking just days after two Syrian children narrowly escaped death by fleeing the besieged region via a humanitarian corridor, according to spokesman for the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation Maj. Gen. Vladimir Zolotukhin. Later, RT filmed their chilling testimonies. 

READ MORE: Terrorists open fire on 100s of civilians trying to flee E. Ghouta in Syria – Russian MoD

“The militants opened fire on us. We left them and fled,” said a little boy, while an older girl, presumably his sister, continued: “Mum told us to run. The fighters continued shooting at us.”

She said they had to crawl in order to hide from the militants until Syrian soldiers rescued them. Some 100 people also attempted escape, the girl added, but the rebels did not let them out.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said that the militants are using ‘human shield’ tactics to prevent civilians from fleeing Eastern Ghouta. They are hiding in civilians’ homes, taking food, and stealing instructions on how to pass through the humanitarian corridor, the Russian military add

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