GENEVA - The UN humanitarian adviser for Syria called on world powers on Thursday to help arrange the evacuation of 500 people, including 167 children, from the besieged Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, saying it has become a "humanitarian emergency."
Jan Egeland said nine people had died in the past few weeks while awaiting permission from the Syrian government for the sick and wounded to be evacuated from the rebel-held area to hospitals less than an hour drive from the capital.
Russia and Iran, as well as the United States and France had pledged to help during the weekly humanitarian meeting, he said.
"It would be incredible if they cannot deliver a simple evacuation of mainly women and children, a 40-minute drive to Damascus city," Egeland told a news conference in Geneva.
"We're ready, we're willing to go, we can handle the security. We have all of the tools available, we need a green light," he said.
Dozens of mortar bombs landed on Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus on Wednesday, a war monitor and a witness said, despite a 48-hour truce proposed by Russia to coincide with the start of peace talks in Geneva.
"Eastern Ghouta, next door to Damascus, is the eye of the hurricane, it is the epicenter of this conflict. At the moment there are 400,000 people there," Egeland said.
In the past two months, U.N. convoys have delivered supplies to 68,000 of the 400,000 trapped civilians, he said. They included 7,000 reached in a convoy during the Russian-brokered ceasefire this week.