Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Syria regime, allies cut besieged Eastern Ghouta in two

Syria regime, allies cut besieged Eastern Ghouta in two

The Syrian army continued its offensive against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta Saturday, a day after an aid convoy delivered food to the hunger-stricken residents of the enclave despite heavy bombardment.

Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group said government forces have laid siege on the rebel-held town of Harasta, cutting it off from the rest of the suburbs known as eastern Ghouta.

The delivery had been due to enter on Thursday, but was delayed due to developments on the ground.

Observers say despite the continuing increase in civilian fatalities, there is little prospect that fighting in eastern Ghouta will ease.

The UN secretary general has described the situation in eastern Ghouta as "hell on earth" and the body's high commissioner for human rights described the military offensive as a "monstrous annihilation".

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 a war monitor.

The convoy entered during a brief lull but the bombardment and fighting resumed after the convoy entered Eastern Ghouta. "The security of humanitarian workers, as well as that of civilians, must be guaranteed at all times", said Mardini.

Image copyright EPA Image caption The first 13 were said to have been transported out using the Syrian government designated al-Wafidden corridor Who are the rebel groups?

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Three days later, Russian Federation announced its own ceasefire initiative calling for daily, five-hour "humanitarian pauses" in eastern Ghouta.

It also raises greater humanitarian concerns and fears for the lives of civilians living in the area, who have fled the government's advance.

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. The most built-up and densely populated areas still under rebel control include the towns of Douma, Harasta, Jisreen, Kfar Batna, Saqba and Hammouriyeh.

The World Health Organization said it has verified 67 hits on medical facilities in Syria through January and February, almost half of them in Eastern Ghouta.

In a surprise move, several members of Syria's armed opposition have been evacuated from rebel-held Eastern Ghouta late on Friday, sources told Al Jazeera.

Jaish al-Islam said it had come to an agreement with a variety of parties, including the United Nations, to evacuate the fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) - an alliance of factions led by the Nusra Front, which sprung from al-Qaeda.

"Shelling in proximity of Douma, east Ghouta today, is putting the UN/ICRC/SARC convoy at risk, despite assurances of safety from parties including the Russian Federation", the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Zaatari, said in a statement.

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