Syria war: Jets strike rebel-held Eastern Ghouta as evacuation stalls

by Garry Watts April 8, 2018, 0:55
Syria war: Jets strike rebel-held Eastern Ghouta as evacuation stalls

Dozens of civilians were killed Friday in Eastern Ghouta when an orderly evacuation deal in the city of Douma, the last rebel-held city collapsed overnight, and the Syrian military responded with a new offensive against the area. State media denied the reports saying "such farces about chemical weapons" were triggered by the troops' quick push toward Douma.

Russian-backed government forces launched their offensive against eastern Ghouta in February.

Government forces had resumed a military blitz of Douma on Friday after an apparent breakdown in negotiations between government backer Moscow and Jaish al-Islam, the rebels who hold the town.

Damascus and Moscow enabled civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta, while paving the way for transfer of militants and their families to a northern militant bastion.

On Friday, opposition activists said 40 people were killed in Douma while state media said four were killed in government-held Damascus.

Although a number of rebel strongholds remain, none are as strategically important as Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located.More than 130,000 people have fled the once-besieged enclave in recent weeks, according to the United Nations, majority to government-run reception centers in Damascus.

Barzeh is close to the eastern Damascus suburb of Harasta that opposition fighters evacuated last month following weeks of a crushing government offensive on eastern Ghouta.

A week long ceasefire had been in place while Jaish al-Islam held talks on the possible withdrawal from Douma.

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Regime forces were locked in violent clashes with Jaish Al Islam rebels in agricultural areas to the southwest and east of the town, the monitor said.

The bombing began as talks between regime and rebels were ongoing with fears now that Bashar al-Assad's forces could unleash a new military assault to take the Eastern Ghouta town.

The air and ground offensive on Eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians and caused an global outcry.

A commander in the regional military alliance that backs Assad said Jaish al-Islam's only option was to accept safe passage to rebel-held areas northeast of Aleppo as talks overseen by Russian Federation had collapsed.

Speaking on Friday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations, said the renewed outbreak of fighting in Douma "is of great concern to us".

Jaysh Al-Islam militants have violated the reached agreements by blocking civilians' evacuation from Douma via the humanitarian corridor, according to the Russian MoD.

Syrian state media is reporting that a bomb has exploded near a mosque in the capital Damascus killing one person and wounding six others.

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