30 Oct 2013

Civilians allowed out of besieged town

10:57 am on 30 October 2013

A rare moment of co-ordination between the Syrian government and rebels has enabled 1800 civilians to flee a besieged town on the edge of Damascus, but thousands remain trapped with little food, water or medicine.

A source in the Ministry for Social Affairs told Reuters the evacuation from Mouadamiya had gone ahead with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and some civil groups.

The Syrian opposition says 12,000 people face starvation and death in the town, which they describe as 90% destroyed. The government says the residents of Mouadamiya are being "held hostage" by terrorists.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have used sieges to root out rebels from residential areas during the civil war that has cost more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions.

International pressure has mounted on Syrian authorities to open humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to besieged civilians but relief agencies say they have not been granted access.

The evacuation from Mouadamiya was the third from the town and the United Nations says 3,000 women and children have already left.