Eastern Ghouta: Syrian army splits enclave in three, reports say

Posted March 11, 2018

The Syrian army has effectively put two big towns in Eastern Ghouta under siege by advancing into the area linking them to each other and to the rest of the rebel enclave, a war monitor says.

Eastern Ghouta has been besieged since 2013 but a relentless assault over the past three weeks has seen the Syrian army capture half of the territory, and is estimated to have killed almost 1,000 people.

An AFP correspondent inside Douma said shelling and air strikes were rocking the town on Saturday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Federation, his main ally, said the campaign was needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and to end the rule of Islamist insurgents over the area's civilians.

The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman.

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Early Friday, the air strikes stopped briefly, with the area seeing its calmest night in more than a week, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

An aid convoy that failed to deliver humanitarian supplies to Syria's besieged eastern Ghouta last week due to violence delivered "urgently needed" aid on Friday despite fighting, which took place extremely close to the convoy, the Red Cross said.

Syrian civil defense volunteers carry away a victim's body who died during the collapse of a building following reported regime bombardment in Haza, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 26, 2018.

Further north in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the Turkish army and its Free Syrian Army allies could enter the town of Afrin "at any moment" and are surrounding its centre.

According to the latest reports coming out of Eastern Ghouta, the town of Mesraba, which represents the last link between the northern and southern halves of the Eastern Ghouta district, is now scene of heavy clashes between the army and Takfiri elements.

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Forces loyal to the Syrian government have now reportedly taken back half of the area.

Syrian state TV showed pictures on Friday of what it said was a number of fighters boarding a bus to leave the enclave.

To keep bombing, Mr. Adel said, "the Russians don't need any excuse".

The renewed artillery fire came as representatives of Damascus and businessmen pressed negotiations on a solution that would allow civilians or fighters to leave the enclave, the Observatory said.

Saturday, Ankara-backed rebels advanced against Kurdish militia in northwest Syria, coming to within two kilometres (just over one mile) of the flashpoint town of Afrin, the Observatory said.

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