Hell on earth: Eastern Ghouta

11 March, 2018, 01:34 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Syria war: Jaish al-Islam to evacuate n of Eastern Ghouta fighters

Eastern Ghouta's 400,000 inhabitants have lived under government siege since 2013 and the enclave - more than half of which has over the past three weeks been retaken by regime forces - is home to a myriad of armed groups.

"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.

In January, activists claimed the Syrian forces used chlorine in an attack on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, causing 21 people to suffer from breathing difficulties.

Apart from Islamist groups such as Jaish al-Islam, militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), who are mostly linked to al-Qaeda, are also deployed there.

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The most densely populated areas in eastern Ghouta are still under rebel control, including the towns of Douma, Harasta, Kfar Batna, Saqba and Hammouriyeh.

At least 976 civilians, including 208 children, have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since February 18, when al-Assad's forces started a major offensive against rebel-held areas there, according to the Observatory. It is hard for aid convoys to reach eastern Ghouta and the global community is failing to intervene.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said on Saturday that warplanes, helicopters and artillery were used in bombardment of the area overnight.

An AFP correspondent inside Douma said shelling and air strikes were rocking the town on Saturday.

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It was the second convoy in one week, after deliveries on Monday were interrupted by heavy bombardment.

On Friday, an aid convoy by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered food to hunger-stricken residents.

These involve rebels surrendering territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to come back under Assad's rule.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said talks were underway between government representatives and local figures to organise the evacuation of civilians or fighters from parts of the enclave. "None of the civilians has been able to leave the enclave over the last 24 hours", Yevtushenko said.

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

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