Eastern Ghouta's rebels agree to evacuate imprisoned Nusra fighters

Posted March 11, 2018

Syrian government forces delivered another serious blow to eastern Ghouta Saturday after forces seized more ground, further isolating the Damascus suburb that has been controlled by rebel forces and under siege for five years.

Aid agencies said Syrian authorities removed basic health supplies, including trauma and surgical kits and insulin, from the convoys before they set off. Douma was once one of the largest cities in Syria.

Pro-government forces have made swift gains since launching their offensive, seizing roughly 40 percent of eastern Ghouta territory in two weeks, according to the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, and setting off a wave of displacement as civilians flee strikes and advancing forces.

Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus with some 400,000 people, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few weeks, as Takfiri terrorist outfits have launched mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat, killing around 20 civilians in two weeks.

But air strikes and shelling resumed near the enclave's main town of Douma after the trucks from the joint ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and United Nations convoy drove in. Accurate figures for the dead are impossible to collate because many bodies remain trapped under the rubble of destroyed homes, and others are buried without being taken to hospitals.

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A previous delivery of aid to the region was cut short amid shelling.

"The UN calls for a cessation of hostilities in the area and for calm throughout Syria so that aid can be safely delivered to people in need", Zaatari said.

Children collecting wood in the besieged town.

"After our meeting today with the delegation which entered Ghouta accompanying the aid convoy, an agreement was reached to evacuate the first batch of HTS members present in the prisons of Jaish al-Islam who had been detained during security operation that Jaish al-Islam began on 28 April, 2017", read the statement from the group's leadership, dated Friday.

Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman, another large rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, said they have staged counter-attacks in recent days that retook some lost positions.

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Federation, his main ally, say the campaign is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and to end the rule of rebels over the area's civilians.

Kurdish media report that Turkish forces have blown up public water facilities, cutting off drinking water supplies to hundreds of thousands of civilians.

According to the report, the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for the use of sarin in the Khan Sheikhoun incident, while Daesh* is responsible for the use of sulfur mustard in Umm Hawsh.

Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta, announced it had agreed to the evacuation of several Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham fighters - previously part of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front - who were detained by the group in Eastern Ghouta.

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