Syrian Army Seizes More Ground In Eastern Ghouta

The Syrian Army has successfully sealed off two large towns in eastern Ghouta, a significant advancement in the bloody conflict in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

The government forces advanced from the east and were now almost a mile away from forces on the western side of eastern Ghouta, cutting links between the rebels in northern and southern parts of the suburb.

Shelling and air strikes slammed into Douma on Saturday, trapping residents inside their basements for hours, AFP's correspondents in the town said.

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, majority civilians, in less than a month, according to medical staff and monitoring groups in the area.

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.

The government has opened what it says are several safe routes out of eastern Ghouta for civilians, but none are known to have left so far and Damascus and Moscow accuse the rebels of preventing them from fleeing the fighting.

Eastern Ghouta is the last remaining opposition-controlled zone on the outskirts of the capital, and rebels there have regularly fired rockets onto Damascus.

In a statement published on Twitter on Friday, the group said the decision had been made in consultation with the United Nations, a number of global parties and civil society representatives from eastern Ghouta.

Keen to secure Damascus, government troops and allied militias have been closing in on the enclave since February 18 and have overrun more than half of it.

Eastern Ghouta's 400,000 inhabitants have lived under government siege since 2013 and the enclave - more than half of which has over the past three weeks been retaken by regime forces - is home to a myriad of armed groups.

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

State TV said 13 fighters and their families had arrived at the crossing point. Kurdish fighters insist the Turkish military has not yet besieged Afrin.

The Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations stated that the JIM's report was based mostly on assumptions and the selective use of facts.

  • Tracy Klein