Image: Civilians evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta enclave pass with belongings

In Focus

Syrians flee besieged enclaves in largest single-day exodus

An estimated 42,000 civilians fled bombings Thursday from the Syrian military near Damascus and Turkish troops in the country's north.

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Image: People leaving rebels-held Eastern Ghouta

Men, women and children walk along a dirt road to army lines in Eastern Ghouta on March 15.

It was the largest single-day exodus of civilians from fighting in Syria's civil war and a reminder of how the conflict that sparked the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe continues to hit new lows as it enters its eighth year.

 

Youssef Badawi / EPA
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Image: A child sleeps in a bag in the village of Beit Sawa

A man carries a sleeping child in a suitcase in the village of Beit Sawa, eastern Ghouta.

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
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Image: People carry their belongings as they flee their homes

People carry their belongings as they flee from Hamouria.

Starting Wednesday night, intense shelling and aerial strikes paved the way for a ground advance on Hamouria, a town in the region's isolated southern pocket. It also triggered a mass exodus, unexpected in scale.

Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: A Syrian girl and boy from the Eastern Ghouta enclave walk with another woman and civilians t

Children hold on to a woman's coat as they walk through the regime-controlled corridor opened by government forces in Hawsh al-Ashaari, east of Hamouria.

Since mid-February, Syrian troops have targeted the capital's sprawling eastern Ghouta region with shells, airstrikes and, at times, even toxic gas, according to opposition medics. They are now in control of the majority of the enclave that had been in rebel hands since 2012.

Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: A Syrian government policeman helps a child out of a building as civilians flee

A Syrian government policeman helps a child out of a building as civilians flee from the Eastern Ghouta enclave during an evacuation through the regime-controlled corridor in Hawsh al-Ashaari, east of the enclave town of Hamouria.

Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: A Syrian child walks with a national flag with other civilians evacuated

A child holds a Syrian flag as civilians pass through the regime-controlled corridor opened by government forces in Hawsh al-Ashaari, east of the enclave town of Hamouria.

Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: A member of the Syrian government forces helps children drink from a water bottle

A member of the Syrian government forces helps children drink from a water bottle during the evacuation.

Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Civilians evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta enclave pass with belongings

At least 10,000 men, women and children emerged from Hamouria and nearby opposition towns, carrying their possessions.

Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin

Thursday's civilian exodus underscored the intractability of a conflict that has invited world powers to stake out their spheres of influence in the fragmented country.

To the north, tens of thousands fled the Turkish military offensive on the Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin. Turkey considers the Kurdish militia a threat to its national security.

Khalil Ashawi / Reuters
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Image: People walk with their belongings as they flee the rebel-held town of Hammouriyeh

People carry their belongings as they flee the rebel-held town of Hamouria.

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
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Image: People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin

People use a farm tractor to flee Afrin. 

Khalil Ashawi / Reuters
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Image: People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin

People sit in a truck with their belongings in the northeast of Afrin. 

Khalil Ashawi / Reuters
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Image:Civilians fleeing the city of Afrin in northern Syria walk at the mountainous road of al-Ahlam

Civilians fleeing the Turkish military offensive in Afrin walk on a mountainous road in al-Ahlam.   They were headed to Nubol, northwest of Aleppo.

Photos: Bombs dropped over eastern Ghouta bring region's deadliest days since 2015

George Ourfalian / AFP - Getty Images
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