“Russian aviation doesn’t strike residential areas in Eastern Ghouta and, moreover, it doesn’t use incendiary ammunition, unlike the US-led international coalition,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The damning reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets group are a “glaring falsehood,” the ministry added, calling the two groups “swindlers” who are taking advantage of the sorrow of the Syrian people.
Earlier, the UK-based Observatory claimed that “Russian air strikes and incendiary weapons killed the civilians in a basement from burning or suffocation” in Arbin town in Eastern Ghouta on Thursday. The controversial “humanitarian” group White Helmets has released the footage of what it said was the aftermath of a Russian airstrike.
The civilians fleeing Eastern Ghouta through humanitarian corridors say that the White Helmets were only operating in the areas controlled by Al-Nusra terrorist group and never provided any assistance to the population, the Defense Ministry said. “The same is confirmed by the representatives of the armed opposition, who made a decision to leave Eastern Ghouta for the Idlib de-escalation zone,” it added.
“Taking these facts into account, the blind readiness of some European media to report any false information with reference to the White Helmets once again causes our bewilderment,” the ministry said.
The internationally-funded White Helmets have long been hailed as heroes by the mainstream western media, with a Netflix documentary that praised them as “unarmed and neutral civilian volunteers” even winning an Oscar. However, the group has also been plagued by allegations of having ties with terrorists and producing fake reports. The humanitarian activists were filmed carrying weapons and sporting military uniforms, with Syrians accusing them of stealing valuables from the injured, of pillaging and other criminal acts.
As for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, RT’s investigation in late 2015 revealed that, despite its convincing name, the organization is actually run by a single man in Coventry, UK, who last visited Syria nearly two decades ago.
While Russia is blamed for airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta, the militants holed up in the Damascus suburb continue daily shellings of the Syrian capital. They fired four missiles and eight mines at residential areas on Friday, killing four people and injuring 18 others, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, the head of Russia’s Reconciliation Center, said.
According to Yevtushenko, by now “most civilians have fled the militant-controlled areas in Eastern Ghouta.” Some 104,000 people have used humanitarian corridors to leave the besieged Damascus suburb since late February.
The withdrawal of Ahrar al-Sham fighters from the town of Harasta continued on Friday. The militants agreed a deal with the Syrian government, under which they would be leaving Eastern Ghouta in exchange for a free passage to Idlib Province for them and their families. 4,120 militants and their families have been evacuated from Harasta to Qalaat al-Madiq, in Idlib, over the last two days, Yevtushenko said.
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