Syrian government troops cut major roads in rebel-held Damascus suburbs

Leslie WoodMar 11, 2018

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.

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.

State TV said 13 fighters and their families had arrived at the crossing point.

Ambulances and green buses - usually used to evacuate people from areas retaken by the regime - waited near a key checkpoint out of the enclave, an AFP reporter there said, as national songs blared on loudspeakers.

None of the local civilians has been able to leave Eastern Ghouta along the humanitarian corridor in the past 24 hours, Maj Gen Yuri Yevtushenko, the chief of the Russian center for reconciliation of warring sides in Syria, said on Friday, TASS reports.

The fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group made up mostly of Al-Qaeda's ex-affiliate Al-Nusra Front, is to be evacuated to the northern province of Idlib, Jaish al-Islam said in a statement.

However, UN agencies said most medical supplies had been stripped from the convoy by Syrian government officials and that the food supplies brought in were insufficient.

Another rebel spokesman, Hamza Birqadar of the Jaish al-Islam group, said in a tweet on Thursday that insurgents had regained some positions in a counter-attack.

Mesraba lies just south of the large towns of Douma and Harasta along the road linking them to the remaining southern area in the insurgent pocket.

On Friday, the second largest rebel group Failaq al-Rahman lost its second-in-command Diaa Shaghoury, who was killed in fighting against government forces, the group said.

The campaign has killed more than 1,000 people, a lot of them civilians, in less than a month, according to medical staff and monitoring groups in the area.

ICRC says it delivered Friday along with the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent 2,400 food parcels that can sustain 12,000 people for one month, as well as 3,248 wheat flour bags.

Bilal Abu Salah, a resident of Douma, said shortages were causing great hardship.

Russia's Defence Ministry, which supports Assad's forces in the Syrian civil war, said at the time that pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and no Russian servicemen had been in the area.

Damascus and Moscow accuse the insurgents of shooting at civilians to prevent them fleeing the fighting into government areas.

The terror of the bombardment and the increasingly unbearable living conditions may push people to courageous the fighting and flee, according to one resident of Douma.

Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group are reporting heavy clashes and government troops' progress on several fronts in the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus. People across eastern Ghouta have sheltered in basements from the ceaseless bombardment in recent weeks.

Doctors and nurses in the enclave have run out of several life-saving items, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which reported a "terrible medical catastrophe".

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