Death toll tops 1000 in assault on Syria's Ghouta: Monitor

Katrina Barker
March 11, 2018

Besieged by government forces since 2013, Ghouta is the last remaining rebel-held area near the capital.

Jaish al-Islam and the other main rebel faction, Failaq al-Rahman, have repeatedly denied that they are in negotiations with Damascus or its ally Russian Federation over their own evacuation.

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.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Federation, his main ally, say the campaign is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and to end the rule of rebels over the area's civilians.

Russia, a main backer of President Bashar Assad, had offered a safe passage to opposition fighters who surrender in eastern Ghouta.

He said rebel artillery fire from East Ghouta hit residential areas of the capital Damascus and its suburbs, killing at least one person.

The Syrian army is making steady advances in the enclave, but it is facing a hostile West, which is threatening airstrikes to stop the push.

State TV showed 13 bearded men it said had earlier handed themselves over to authorities boarding a bus.

The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman.

Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad denied in a news conference held in Damascus opposition charges that government forces used poison gas in their attacks on eastern Ghouta.

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.

Militants in Eastern Ghouta have been blocking civilians trying to leave the suburb since the first humanitarian corridor was opened at the end of February.

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. They have already taken control of the nearby town of Jinderes, a few kilometres from Afrin, Turkish reports say.

In January, Turkey began an offensive to oust the Kurdish YPG militia from the Afrin region in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.

Reports of chemical attacks that may have involved chlorine or organophosphorus have also emerged in recent days, despite warnings by western powers that use of chemical weapons might prompt them to intervene in the unfolding crisis.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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