March 24, 2018

Syria intensifies Ghouta assault

11 March 2018, 01:00 | Kara Nash

A Syrian soldier loyal to President Bashar al Assad is seen outside eastern Ghouta in Damascus Syria

A Syrian soldier loyal to President Bashar al Assad is seen outside eastern Ghouta in Damascus Syria

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.

Fresh shelling of Eastern Ghouta endangered a vital aid delivery on Friday, almost three weeks into a blistering Syrian regime offensive that has seized more than half of the rebel enclave.

The Syrian government does not cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) believing that the body is propagating the anti-Syrian policy of western countries, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.

But the group represents only a small portion of the insurgent presence in the enclave, and both Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman have said they are not negotiating a similar deal for themselves.

The Syrian government has stepped up efforts in retake the rebel-held enclave in recent weeks, leading to more than 900 reported civilian deaths.

The Syrian government has opened what it calls safe routes out of the enclave, but no civilians are known to have left yet.

Syrian state television then showed footage that it said was of 13 fighters and their families leaving the enclave.

"It has been agreed that the first group of HTS members be released from the prisons of Jaish al-Islam ..."

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The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops captured the Kilani gas station on the main highway linking Douma with Harasata and those two areas with the rest of eastern Ghouta.

"Militants keep firing at civilians who are attempting to flee from Eastern Ghouta".

The ferocious three-week assault on the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus has captured about half its area and killed 960 people, according to the Observatory.

The roads connecting the towns to each other were all covered by army fire, the observatory said.

Kurdish media report that Turkish forces have blown up public water facilities, cutting off drinking water supplies to hundreds of thousands of civilians.

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.

The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK - an assertion backed by the U.S., which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

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