United Nations plans to deliver humanitarian assistance to Damascus' Eastern Ghouta

by Abel Hampton March 5, 2018, 1:38
United Nations plans to deliver humanitarian assistance to Damascus' Eastern Ghouta

Syria's Central Military Media said government forces captured at least six villages and towns along the edge of eastern Ghouta.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory, said at least 12 regime fighters had been killed in two areas, Al-Rihan and Shifoniya, in overnight clashes with the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.

Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.

At the same time, in Moscow, a high-ranking official of the Russian armed forces said the rebels have imposed a ban on traffic in the areas under their control to prevent civilians from leaving the safe humanitarian corridor during the ceasefire.

The multi-sided Syrian 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. Rebel officials have consistently denied stopping civilians from leaving. The Observatory said government forces had seized a quarter of the territory.

The UN says some 393,000 people are trapped in Ghouta.

Eastern Ghouta is one of the last major rebel-held areas of the country, which has been ravaged by civil war for nearly seven years.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, drew a parallel with rebel-held eastern Aleppo where no aid convoys were allowed to enter in late 2016 before it fell to regime forces: "Similar to the lack of approval to get aid into East Aleppo - lots of talk and no action".

The Observatory estimated that between 300 to 400 families, which is likely several thousand people, had fled areas seized by government forces since Saturday. A reporter from the Syrian state-run Al Ekhbariya TV, accompanying troops, broadcast from Nashabiyah, a village on the south-eastern edge of eastern Ghouta.

"What we see in Eastern ghouta and other places in Syria, is likely war crimes and crimes against humanity", he said during a meeting of the UN Council on human rights in Geneva.

The regime's capture of that city marked a turning point in the war, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad taking back control of all four major cities in the country - with the help of Russian Federation.

The convoy of some 40 trucks had been due to go to Douma in the regime-besieged enclave near Damascus, where some 400,000 people need food, medical and other supplies, the United Nations says.

Much-needed United Nations aid - including a 45-truck convoy with enough supplies for 90,000 people in 10 locations - was unable to enter the war-torn enclave.

Moumtzis also expressed concern about the situation in Afrin, a Kurdish region under Turkish assault since January, saying there were "disturbing reports" of civilian deaths and injuries and restrictions on civilian movement. Turkish forces have taken control of the roads from Rajo and Jandaris to Afrin, it also said in a statement.

The state news agency SANA said the projectiles hit the al-Bairouni Hospital's vicinity, the al-Assad neighborhood, and the al-Qemariya neighborhood in the capital's Old City.

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