Syria Army Continues to Make Gains against Militants in Ghouta

Syria Army Continues to Make Gains against Militants in Ghouta”

Syrian regime forces on Saturday cut off the largest town in Eastern Ghouta from the rest of the rebel-held enclave near Damascus, pressing on with a 20-day assault that has left more than 1,000 civilians dead.

"Tense negotiations continue between representatives of the Center. leaders of the illegal armed formations of the Syrian opposition in order to reach an agreement on the withdrawal of the second line of militants from the zone of de-escalation of East Ghouta", he said, according to Russian news agencies.

Four major rebel groups are now positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham and the Levant Liberation Committee, otherwise known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

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.

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 Observatory also said warplanes, helicopters and artillery had been used in bombardment of the area overnight.

On Thursday, a United Nations commission of inquiry released a report accusing the Assad regime of committing war crimes in eastern Ghouta, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians, causing mass starvation and preventing medical evacuations. "But then air strikes began again, and there are still people under the rubble that we couldn't get out".

In many cases, rebels have surrendered terrain in return for safe passage to other opposition areas for themselves as well as relatives and other civilians loath to fall back under Assad's rule.

The rebels in Eastern Ghouta are not one cohesive group.

An aid convoy managed to deliver food to hunger-stricken Eastern Ghouta on Friday despite renewed bombardment by Syrian regime forces who have seized more than half of the besieged rebel enclave.

However, the terror of the bombardment and the desperate living conditions are taking their toll and may push people to fearless the fighting and flee. "Shop owners and traders are sending their workers to the shelters to sell food for three times their price before the offensive", said a man in Saqba who identified himself as Abu Abdo in a voice message.

The food was supposed to be delivered on Monday when a previous convoy entered Douma, but fighting forced it to leave early without unloading fully.

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