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Syria: the regime has taken over 10% of a rebel enclave near Damascus

Ⓒ AFP – HAMZA AL-AJWEH – | A Syrian child is treated in a hospital in Duma, Eastern Ghouta, March 3, 2018

Syrian forces and their allies have regained control of 10 percent of the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta, following ground fighting that escalated after a devastating and deadly air campaign, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Man (OSDH).

Supported by its Russian ally, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has accentuated in recent days attacks on the ground against the rebels in the surrounding areas of the enclave, at the gates of Damascus. After regaining several localities, the regime has regained control of 10% of the sector held by the insurgents, reported Saturday the NGO. These newly conquered territories form a crescent from the east to the southeast of the rebel enclave.

“Regime forces have regained control of the southeast of the rebel enclave, the Al-Marj area, including the localities of Nachabiyé and Hazarma,” according to OSDH director Rami Abdel. Rahman.

Previously, they had taken control of the two localities of Otaya and Chifouniya, as well as two military bases in the hands of Jaich al-Islam, one of the rebel groups controlling the enclave, according to the same source.

“This rapid progression is due to the fact that it is mainly agricultural areas,” said AFP Abdel Rahman.

The Syrian government does not hide its intention to recapture all of Eastern Ghouta after sending reinforcements in mid-February around the rebel enclave, where some 400,000 civilians have been besieged since 2013. The pro-regime already controls two-thirds of the population. Ghouta, and the rebels a third.

– 642 civilians killed –

Referring to “the progress of the army in eastern Ghouta,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussane said that “the terrorists will taste the defeat soon in Ghouta, as they knew it in Aleppo”, second city ​​of the country.

The scenario is reminiscent of what happened in 2016 in Aleppo, where the rebels had to abandon their neighborhoods, after a stifling siege and devastating shelling of the regime and its Russian ally.

Saturday evening, the pro-state daily al-Watan also reported the reconquest by the regime of several localities, including those of Nachabiyé and Hazarma.

“The surface of the Ghouta (rebel) is shrinking,” says the daily on its website.

Ⓒ AFP – Ammar SULEIMAN – | A Syrian in the midst of destruction in the locality of Ain Tarma in the rebel enclave in Eastern Ghouta, bombed by the regime, March 2, 2018

With the intensification of ground fighting, air raids have decreased in favor of a five-hour daily truce entered into force Tuesday, at the initiative of Moscow.

On Saturday, six civilians perished, according to the OSDH. A total of 642 civilians, including 152 children, were killed in the regime’s rare air campaign launched on 18 February.

A humanitarian corridor supposed to allow the evacuation of the civilians, the sick or the wounded of Ghouta and the entrance of aid convoys, remained nevertheless empty. To the chagrin of the besieged inhabitants who are suffering from shortages of food and medicine.

– Macron and Guterres ‘worried’ –

French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Eastern Ghouta.

In a telephone conversation on Saturday night, the French president and the UN chief “reaffirmed their full determination to implement the resolution 2401, including humanitarian access, by the Syrian regime and its allies,” he said. ‘Elysium.

Macron will meet Syria on Sunday with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani, Tehran being one of the main supporters of the Syrian regime.

Triggered in 2011 by the repression of pro-democracy demonstrations, the conflict between March 15 in its eighth year became more complex, with the military intervention of foreign powers and jihadist groups, and made more than 340,000 dead.

On another front of the conflict, in northwestern Syria, where the Kurdish enclave of Afrine has been the target of a Turkish military offensive since 20 January, at least 36 pro-regime fighters have been killed in air strikes. Ankara in the locality of Kfar Janna, according to the OSDH.

These fighters are part of forces that came in February to support the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey seeks to hunt from Afrine.

Ⓒ AFP – Bakr ALKASEM – | Turkish forces and helicopters near Al-Maabatli village in Afrine region of Syria, 2 March 2018

This is the third deadly bombing of Loyalist positions in 48 hours. On Thursday, 14 pro-regime fighters perished in similar strikes.

Turkey regards the YPG as a “terrorist” group, closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) engaged in bloody guerrilla warfare on Turkish soil since 1984. However, the YPGs are supported by the United States and have been the spearhead of the fight against the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

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