More civilians were evacuated from the last territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in eastern Syria Friday, amid a warning by the United Nations about the plight of thousands who have fled the area in recent weeks.
In a statement, the UN cited reports that more than 84 people, two-thirds of them children under the age of five, have died since December on their way to al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria after fleeing the extremist group in Deir el-Zour province.
In the last week alone, the UN said, some 13,000 people have arrived at al-Hol camp.
“Many of the arrivals are exhausted, hungry and sick,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at a news briefing in Geneva.
The evacuation of men, women and children comes amid an ongoing standoff between the militants and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces besieging them in a small sliver of land along the Euphrates River.
From a self-proclaimed caliphate that once stretched over large areas of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has been reduced to a tiny speck of land in the village of Baghouz. There, a few hundred ISIS militants are holed up with family members and other civilians who are among the group’s most determined supporters, many of whom traveled to Syria from all over the world.
Russia plans to evacuate Rukban camp
U.S. President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Thursday that ISIS has lost 100 per cent of the territory it once controlled in Syria. On the ground, the group continues to cling to its last piece of territory, with civilians, mostly women and children, trickling out on almost daily basis.
In Moscow, the Russian military said the Syrian government was sending convoys to evacuate a refugee camp in southern Syria where tens of thousands suffer from lack of food and medical supplies.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said the Syrian convoys were heading on Friday to the Rukban camp and urged the U.S. military in the area to secure their safe passage. Russia has accused the U.S. of failing to provide humane conditions in the camp, which is home to about 40,000 people.
Mizintsev said the U.S. military would bear “full responsibility for the safe passage” of convoys through its zone of control.
The Russian military said it will work together with the Syrian army to escort the convoys as they head to temporary accommodation centres for refugees established in several Syrian provinces.