Syrian government forces make new eastern Ghouta advance: Observatory

Hannah Rogers
March 5, 2018

"After repeatedly delaying the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2401, which demanded a 30-day cessation of hostilities across Syria, Russia has gone on to ignore its terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations", the statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

A reporter from state-run Al-Ikhbariyah TV accompanied the troops and broadcast from Nashabiyah, a village on the southeastern edge of eastern Ghouta.

The Syrian army said in a statement Sunday that the fighting is ongoing in Eastern Ghouta out of the time of the partial daily humanitarian pause, which has so far failed to allow people to evacuate, with the government blaming the rebels of targeting those who want to flee Eastern Ghouta.

A commander in the military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said fighting was underway in al-Shayfouniya, without giving further details.

"Most of it is farms and there are few towns in [the captured area]", said the Observatory's director, Rami Abdulrahman.

Meanwhile, no civilians have exited through a humanitarian corridor set up by Russian Federation and the Syrian government almost a week ago.

The U.N. said 15,000 people have reportedly been driven from their homes in January, the majority staying in shelters and basements around Ghouta.

"Therefore we must continue with the operation and in parallel open the way for civilians to leave", he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the report, saying terrorists also opened sniper fire at the safe corridor, marked out by Moscow in Eastern Ghouta for evacuation of civilians.

"The convoy to east Ghouta is not able to proceed today", the official said, adding that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners "remain on standby to deliver desperately needed assistance as soon as conditions allow".

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Terrorists are using Eastern Ghouta as a launchpad for near-daily attacks on the capital.

Macron was due to speak with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, another key supporter of the Syrian regime, by telephone on Sunday.

Addressing the human rights Council meeting he said that Eastern Ghouta in Syria has become a platform for crimes against humanity.

Fighting has rocked the beseiged enclave since Sunday morning as rebels battled to retake territory seized in a devastating government assault on the last major opposition held area near Damascus.

At least 76 pro-government fighters and 43 rebels from Jaish al-Islam have also been killed in clashes since 25 February, it says.

The multi-sided war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since 2011, has escalated on several fronts this year, as the collapse of Islamic State has given way to other conflicts between Syrian and global parties.

Mr Hamza Bayraqdar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, said on Twitter that the group's forces had launched "surprise attacks" against regime positions.

The Observatory estimated that between 300 to 400 families, which is likely several thousand people, had fled areas seized by government forces since Saturday.

The Observatory said some 2,000 civilians had fled regime shelling and clashes in eastern areas to western parts of the enclave.

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