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10 Aug, 2008 20:25

South Ossetia conflict – day three

More than 2,000 people were killed in South Ossetia, most of them civilians – and more than 30,000 fled the conflict zone seeking refuge in Russia’s North Ossetia. But leaving everything behind, they’re still desperate t

The city is in ruins with most of buildings razed to the ground, and scores of dead bodies on the streets.

“When cleaning out debris in a house, fragments of cassette bombs were found. It is an illegal weapon which should never be used against civilians. And the Georgians’ use of multiple launch rocket systems is also inhuman. It proves the genocide of the Ossetian people, which is going on for centuries, is continuing. It is beyond understanding how Saakashvili could have shot peacekeepers. Evacuation is full of dangers. You have a 30 per cent chance of surviving,” said Yury Beteev from Osininform information agency.

People are buried under what used to be their homes, as many of those who didn’t escape were hiding in the basements.

In the local hospital destroyed by the shelling, patients were moved to the basement too – with no gas, water, electricity or access to medications.

Georgia launched the major offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight on August 7.

Heavy rocket and artillery fire and air strikes pounded the capital of the breakaway region.

After Georgia's attacks claimed lives of both Russian peacekeepers and civilians, 90 per cent of whom are Russian citizens, Russia moved its troops in.

“Our peacekeepers are currently using their right to self-defence and they are currently taking part in the peace enforcement mission,” said Grigory Karasin, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

There were reports of Russian planes bombing Georgian targets including Gori which is situated 50 kilometres from Tskhinvali.

According to local authorities, six apartment blocks were hit.

The Russian General Staff said the area was used by Georgian forces to shell the capital of South Ossetia with salvo fire.

“Our reconnaissance planes detect Georgian troops and forces of the second echelon. They are reserves that’ll be deployed against Tskhinvali and in other directions, and they are our targets. We strike them and in such cases Georgians distort facts – they name villages, cities, communities located in the proximity, saying the Russian air force targets them. With full responsibility I can state that Russia has not targeted a single village,” said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Defence Ministry spokesman.

After three days of attacks and Russia’s persistent demands for the Georgian forces to move out, the Georgian President reports on the withdrawal in the western media.

“We relocated our troops out of the town of Tskhinvali,” Saakashvili said.

But the reports of fighting intensify.

All the sides in the conflict, along with the international community, are calling to stop the violence in South Ossetia, and yet all of them seem to fail to speak in unison.