Russia recently offered safe passage for Syrian opposition fighters in Eastern Ghouta. If accepted, the offer would mean the fall of the last rebel-held area near Damascus.
Protestors Against the Violence in Eastern Ghouta Form a Human Chain in Tel Aviv Photo Credit: Daniel Bar-on/TPS
The Russian military has offered safe passage for fighters who agree to surrender their positions in Eastern Ghouta, saying that they would be allowed to leave with their families, personal belongings and one weapon through a secure corridor where Russian and Syrian troops have made significant gains in the past few days. The offer presented to the opposition fighters did not include specifics on where they would go after leaving their positions, but it resembles several attempts in the past few months where fighters were able to relocate to other rebel-held areas and guarantees long-term immunity to fighters who accept it.
So far, the fighters in Eastern Ghouta have rejected the peace offer, which came a day after a Russian supply plane crashed in Syria, sharply raising the Russian death toll in the conflict, and President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces continue to drive a wedge through the enclave and split the rebel-held territory in two. Meanwhile, the United Nations believes that over 400,000 people continue to be trapped in Eastern Ghouta, where supplies are quickly running out and aid convoys are struggling to get through.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry, consistent with its past positions, has denied the targeting of civilians, but Syria’s official news agency, SANA, announced on Tuesday that soldiers loyal to the government had captured the town of Muhamadiya, just at the edge of Eastern Ghouta, and said that the military would continue its push to recapture the city. The current Russian offer, if accepted by the rebels, would mean the fall of the last rebel-held area near Damascus and would push rebel operations north to the border with Turkey, where the conflict with Kurdish and Turkish forces has further escalated. On the ground, human rights groups have said that the recent bombardment led to the death of 80 people on Monday alone.
While rebels have indicated that they will not accept the offer, no official statement has been made.