More civilians leave Syrian rebel enclave as army advances

Mattis warns Syria on chemical weapons, doubts Russian missile claims

Last week, a United Nations commission of inquiry released a report accusing the Assad regime of committing war crimes in Eastern Ghouta, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians, causing mass starvation and forcibly preventing medical evacuations.

The other two areas still in rebel hands are Douma, the region's biggest town in the north of the enclave, and the zone around Hammuriyeh and other towns to the south.

"In the southern East Ghouta pocket area, the Syrian Army has, following the very recent seizure of Aftris, ceased operations for the time being to allow for the safe withdrawal of civilians and surrendering insurgent fighters into the custody of government forces".

All three towns are controlled by Islamist rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, which has repeatedly denied engaging in talks with the regime.

Eastern Ghouta has been besieged for years after many of its residents joined the initial protests against Assad's rule in 2011 that triggered the slide into civil war.

Syrian government forces, supported by Russian Federation, are leading an offensive on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

Assad and his ally Russian Federation say the assault on eastern Ghouta is needed to end the rule of Islamist insurgents over the civilian population and to stop mortar fire on nearby Damascus. In April, the US carried out strikes against Syria after reports of a suspected gas attack in northern Syria.

File photo shows an explosion, from a Syrian government air strike, illuminating the town of Arbin in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

No deal has been reached however, he said. Turkish troops have destroyed water and power stations that supply the town of Afrin, making it hard for people to stay there, Ebrahim said.

Turkey launched a solo military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish militia known as YPG to clear them from the enclave of Afrin.

Government forces have now captured more than half of the rebel enclave and have entirely besieged Douma, the largest urban centre in eastern Ghouta, cutting it off from neighbouring areas with advances on Saturday and Sunday.

Syrian government forces split eastern Ghouta in two amid rapid weekend advances, dealing a major setback to the rebels and threatening to exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation at the doorstep of the country's capital. The group also did not say when the evacuations would begin or where the wounded would be taken.

Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta has remained the target of a crippling regime siege for the last five years.



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