Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Advance by Syrian army in Eastern Ghouta splits rebel enclave in three

Advance by Syrian army in Eastern Ghouta splits rebel enclave in three

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the close-range fighting came despite security guarantees from the parties involved in the conflict that humanitarian aid could enter the town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta.

Rebels deny this and say the area's inhabitants have not crossed into government territory because they fear persecution.

The UN has called the bombardment "unacceptable", saying it amounts to "the collective punishment of civilians". Any solution to the crisis will probably involve a partial evacuation of rebel fighters and perhaps civilians, in a deal similar to past surrender agreements between the government and rebels.

Syria's state news agency SANA said that government forces pushed deeper into Eastern Ghouta with the aim of cutting off rebels' supply routes between the northern and southern sections of the region.

Misraba is located along a major road that links Douma, in the north, with another big town, Harasta, in the west.

The Syrian army has reportedly splintered the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, as it intensifies its three-week assault on the area near Damascus.

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Last Friday, the United Nations had managed to deliver aid to the region after a number of unsuccessful attempts that were halted by shelling.

"After the opening of an additional checkpoint in the direction of Jisrein-Mlekha area, the Syrian side has registered increased number of clashes between the civilians and the militants who are blocking the exits from the area", Zolotukhin told reporters. It has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

"If I thought about leaving Ghouta I would worry about the regime because there are no guarantees: and, second, I would worry about Jaish al-Islam, because they won't let us leave", said one activist in Douma. They encompass multiple factions, including jihadists, and in-fighting between them has led to past losses of ground to the Syrian government. The latter has in the past fought alongside HTS.

Eastern Ghouta, which lies just east of Damascus, is home to some 400,000 civilians and is controlled by myriad armed groups.

The Syrian government is desperate to regain the territory, and has said its attempts to recapture it can be attributed directly due to the HTS presence there.

The council is to meet on Monday to hear a report from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and try to plod on with a bid to turn the ceasefire voted in NY into a reality on the ground.

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The group is an alliance of factions led by the Nusra Front, which sprang from al-Qaeda.

Mekdad also pointed out that the Syrian government had asked global investigators to investigate reports about a chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun but the request was declined over alleged poor security conditions.

Turkey-led rebels have been pressing an assault on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin since January 20.

Turkish troops, and some allied Syrian rebel militias, are now on the outskirts of Afrin town, the SOHR says.

"The bomb shelters and basements are full, and people are sleeping in the streets and in public gardens", the statement said.

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