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Syrian army intensifies assault on Eastern Ghouta, splits rebel stronghold

11 March, 2018, 01:35 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Syrian forces attacking eastern Ghouta 'have surrounded rebels in Douma'

During rebel infighting in the enclave, analysts and some residents say, the Army of Islam's main rival, Faylaq Al Rahman, has sometimes formed opportunistic alliances with H.T.S.

"It has been agreed that the first group of HTS members be released from the prisons of Jaish al-Islam".

Late on Friday, a small number of fighters and their families from the former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front left eastern Ghouta under such a deal.

Residents say they fear government retribution if they were to try and flee the area, or the possibility of being redrafted into the Syrian military and sent to fight on the frontline.

The Observatory also said warplanes, helicopters and artillery had been used in bombardment of the area overnight. Meanwhile, Syrian state TV reported that the battles in eastern Ghouta have intensified.

"The choice of the people in Ghouta is either to get out - and they don't know what's happening when they get out of Ghouta - or to stay and be under the bombs", he stated.

The Doctors Without Borders charity called for desperately needed medical supplies to be allowed into the enclave, where exhausted doctors have been struggling to treat hundreds of wounded.

Despite two weeks of air strikes and artillery bombardment that have killed nearly 950 civilians, the main rebel groups have so far rejected Russian-brokered offers to evacuate civilians or any of their own fighters.

A negotiator from Hammuriyeh said a "civilian delegation" wanted to hold talks with the government to end the fighting in the area. Hassan has sent us video footage of the beleagured town.

He told journalists there had also been discussions for "500 fighters to hand over their weapons to the army".

Early Friday, the air strikes stopped briefly, with the area seeing its calmest night in more than a week, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The mission followed what opposition activists and a war monitor said was one of the quietest nights in eastern Ghouta since Syrian government forces escalated their assault on the rebellious region on February 18.

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.


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