Fighters and families start to leave eastern Ghouta

11 March, 2018, 01:32 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • Smoke billows after a Syrian government bombardment on the rebel-controlled town of Kafr Batna in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday

In less than two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken almost all the farmland in Eastern Ghouta under cover of near ceaseless shelling and air strikes, leaving only a dense sprawl of towns - about half the territory - still under insurgent control.

Rebels have tried to slow the advance with an attempted counter-offensive, but President Bashar al-Assad's forces steamrolled their efforts.

"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.

ICRC said a convoy of 13 trucks, including food parcels for 12,000 people, went into Douma - the largest and most populated town in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta, on the edge of the Syrian capital. "So Ghouta will gain by finishing with these people".

Syrian state television broadcast live footage from Misraba hours after it was captured by the army on Saturday, showing dozens of civilians in a dark basement, surrounded by troops.

United Nations aid agencies have pleaded with the Syrian government and its ally Russian Federation to halt the campaign and allow access for humanitarian deliveries.

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An aid convoy crossed into the embattled rebel-held suburbs of Damascus Friday, delivering desperately needed aid despite heavy fighting that broke out "extremely close" to the convoy and renewed air strikes by the Syrian regime.


The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on Friday gave a death toll of 931 civilians in the campaign.

These involve rebels surrendering territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to come back under Assad's rule.

The government says its forces now control half the enclave.

The limited operation came as the powerful Jaish al-Islam said HTS fighters would be evacuated to the northern province of Idlib, in an arrangement struck following consultations with the United Nations and other worldwide players.

The military has been accused of targeting civilians, but it says it is trying to liberate the region - one of the last rebel strongholds - from those it terms terrorists.


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