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Syrian forces cut off key towns in Eastern Ghouta enclave

11 March 2018, 01:31 | Myrtle Vega

Syrian forces cut off key towns in Eastern Ghouta enclave

Syrian forces attacking eastern Ghouta 'have surrounded rebels in Douma'

For President Bashar al-Assad, it would mark a significant victory as he builds on the military momentum created by Russia's entry into the war in 2015 that has restored his rule over large swathes of the country.

Almost 950 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed government forces launched a blistering assault on the last opposition bastion near Damascus on Feb 18.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops reached the centre of the town of Misraba, adding that opposition fighters are crumbling amid the offensive.

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

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said talks were underway between government representatives and local figures to organise the evacuation of civilians or fighters from parts of the enclave.

Some 400,000 people are still thought to live in the area, seven years into Syria's civil war.

Insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta deny this, but a Reuters witness on Friday saw gunfire and mortar fire from inside the rebel territory near one of the crossing points. The latter has in the past fought alongside HTS.

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The Syrian government is desperate to regain the territory, and has said its attempts to recapture it can be attributed directly due to the HTS presence there.

The group is an alliance of factions led by the Nusra Front, which sprang from al-Qaeda.

Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Fayssal Mikdad warned that well-known parties are leveling accusations against Syria regarding the use of chemical weapons as a result of the victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism, SANA reports.

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.

Turkish troops, and some allied Syrian rebel militias, are now on the outskirts of Afrin town, the SOHR says.

Civilians are not safe anywhere in eastern Ghouta, and aid workers who entered briefly on Monday said some residents had not seen sunlight for two weeks because they were sheltering underground.



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