DAMASCUS, Syria – A rare moment of coordination between the Syrian government and rebels enabled 1,800 civilians to flee a besieged town on the edge of Damascus on Tuesday, but thousands remain trapped with little food, water or medicine.
A source in the Ministry for Social Affairs said the evacuation from Mouadamiya had gone ahead with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and some civil groups.
"I was living in terror and now I am free and safe with the army, thank God," a resident of Mouadamiya told a Reuters reporter on condition of anonymity. "There is no food or water. We got out with a new spirit now.".
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.
The government says the residents of Mouadamiya are being "held hostage" by terrorists.
This is the third such evacuation from Mouadamiya and the United Nations says 3,000 women and children have already left.
The opposition says 12,000 people face starvation and death in the town, which they describe as 90 percent destroyed.
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.
Mother Fadia Lahham, a nun who helped organize Tuesday's evacuation, said she was working to rescue all the civilians.
"The minister of social affairs ... volunteers, our team, the people of Mouadamiya, outside and inside, the opposition and even the security services ... have contributed," she said.
The Associated Press released this video of aid workers assisting fleeing Syrian civilians: