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Aid reaches Syria's Ghouta amid renewed regime attacks

11 March 2018

It is hard for aid convoys to reach eastern Ghouta and the global community is failing to intervene.

The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people live in rebel-held areas of eastern Ghouta.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed since Syria's government launched a brutal offensive on the rebel-controlled Eastern Ghouta enclave almost three weeks ago, a war monitor said on Saturday (March 10).

Government forces this week advanced from the east and were only about a mile away from linking with forces on the western side of eastern Ghouta.

Keen to secure Damascus, government troops and allied militias have been closing in on the enclave since February 18 and have overrun more than half of it.

State television reported that the army was advancing near Mesraba and Mudeira, two small towns which represent the last link between the northern and southern halves of the enclave, which is located near to the Syrian capital Damascus.

Russia, a main backer of President Bashar Assad, had offered a safe passage to opposition fighters who surrender in eastern Ghouta.

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Doctors and residents reported intense shelling and cases of suffocation and breathing difficulties, accusing the government of using chlorine gas on Wednesday night.

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

Such reports, which have been recurrent in the past weeks, could not be independently confirmed. Faisal Mekdad on Saturday denied his government's possession of chemical weapons or chlorine gas.

"The situation is evolving rapidly on the ground, which doesn't allow us to carry out the operation in such conditions", she said.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in eastern Damascus for weeks and the violence has left almost 1,000 people dead. ICRC spokeswoman Indy Sedky said the trucks crossed into eastern Ghouta yesterday "after getting security guarantees from all parties to make sure no incident will happen during the presence of our team" there.

Almost 950 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed government forces launched a blistering assault on the last opposition bastion near Damascus on 18 February.

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Aid reaches Syria's Ghouta amid renewed regime attacks