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Russian Federation says over 12000 people left Syria's Ghouta on Thursday

19 March 2018

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited a frontline area in Damascus' Eastern Ghouta area, meeting with soldiers and civilians as well, where the Syrian army is advancing against the rebels.

People walk with their belongings as they flee the rebel-held town of Hammouriyeh, in the village of Beit Sawa, eastern Ghouta, Syria March 15, 2018.

Assad's visit comes on the week the war enters its eighth year, a war that has devastated large parts of Syria, and displaced almost half of the population.

A new wave of people fled a rebel pocket to army lines in eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus, as rescuers and a monitor said air strikes pounded the besieged zone.

The weekslong regime violance has killed more than 1,390 civilians and wounded 5,000 in the enclave, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

The President told the crowds of people that the duty of the Syrian army is to protect them.

More than 30,000 people left on Saturday, the Interfax news agency cited a centre in Syria that Russia's defence ministry runs. More than 150,000 people have left the town in the last few days, a senior Kurdish official said.

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Over the past week, Syrian troops and allied fighters divided the sprawling eastern Ghouta region into three parts, isolating residential areas and facilitating the military advance.

The outflow began on Thursday with thousands fleeing the southernmost of the three Ghouta pockets.

Turkey launched an offensive against the YPG on January 20 to clear Afrin.

Turkey wants to crush the YPG which it views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime strikes killed over 30 civilians in eastern Ghouta's Zamalka town as people were preparing to flee the enclave.

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Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV broadcast footage from the Afrin area showing cars, small trucks, tractors and groups of people on foot leaving the town.

"I urge all parties to the conflict to fully respect worldwide humanitarian and human rights law and guarantee the protection of civilians", he said, noting that "any evacuation of civilians must be safe, voluntary, and in strict accordance with protection standards under global humanitarian and human rights law".

Russian Federation says over 12000 people left Syria's Ghouta on Thursday