Syria war: Evacuation of sick victims begin

Medical evacuations are taking place from a rebel-held area on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Four critically-ill patients were taken out of the Eastern Ghouta overnight by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Another 25 should be evacuated in the coming days as part of a deal agreed by the government and rebels, though hundreds more are in need of treatment.
Some 400,000 residents have been under siege by government forces since 2013.
The Eastern Ghouta has been designated a “de-escalation zone” by Russia and Iran, the government’s main allies, along with Turkey, which backs the opposition.
But hostilities intensified six weeks ago, when the Syrian military stepped up air and artillery attacks on the enclave in response to a rebel offensive, reportedly killing dozens of civilians.
There are also severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines, and the cold winter weather is threatening to worsen the hardship.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) announced early on Wednesday that medics had started to transfer patients from the Eastern Ghouta “after long negotiations”.
It gave no further details, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) later confirmed that four people with critical medical conditions had been taken with their families to hospitals in Damascus, and that it hoped that a total of 29 people would be evacuated “over the coming few days”.
“The operation is clearly a positive step that will give some respite to the people in Eastern Ghouta, especially those who are in dire need of life-saving medical treatment,” spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk said
“We hope this medical evacuation will only be the beginning of more to come, as there many more people in need. It is also vital for humanitarian organisations to reach people in Eastern Ghouta with aid on a regular basis and without conditions.”

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