DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – A Syrian army colonel says government forces will lift the siege on the terrorist-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, making it possible for people trapped in the embattled enclave to return to the "state’s embrace” soon.
"We have received instructions from the army command to lift the siege off our people in Eastern Ghouta,” Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying on Syrian state television on Wednesday.
"God willing, very, very, very soon ... they will return to the state's embrace," the official added.
Meanwhile, state television reported that Syrian army units were attacking terrorists in the Eastern Ghouta town of Mesraba with preparatory fire to secure the entry of infantry units.
Holed up inside Eastern Ghouta, foreign-backed terrorists have been launching indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks on Damascus, which have resulted in many civilian deaths.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air force, has launched an operation to liberate the region.
Syria has established a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave the operation zone, while Russia has been enforcing daily pauses in fighting from 09:00 a.m. to 02:00 p.m. local time to facilitate the exit of people.
However, the terrorists have been blocking the exit of civilians, using them as human shields in the face of the government’s counter-terrorism operations.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has stressed that Western states are using claims of chemical weapons usage as an excuse to violate the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"Syria has lately seized, after liberating a number of regions in Hama countryside from terrorism, more than 40 tons of chlorine gas in the presence of the Chemical Weapons convention’s inspectors,” said a statement released by the ministry.
It noted that the United Nations and Chemical Weapons Convention had been informed about the trucks loaded with poisonous substances entering the country and a terrorist stockpile of Sarin gas in an archeological region in Idlib province.
"The Syrian Arab Republic, which has repeatedly affirmed its non-possession of any form of chemical weapons, and its non-use of chlorine gas as a weapon, reiterates that it is the first meant side in defending its citizens and in preventing the use of poisonous materials on its territory,” added the statement.
Earlier in the day, Russia rejected allegations that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons, stressing that only an international body can rule on the issue based on an "impartial” probe.
Last week, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is sympathetic to the terrorists operating against the Damascus government, claimed a suspected chlorine attack had taken place in the militant-held al-Shifuniyah village of the Eastern Ghouta region on February 25.
Syria turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013.
A general view shows smoke and flames rising from buildings in the Eastern Ghouta region, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, on March 4, 2018.