11 March, 2018
Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group said government forces have laid siege on the rebel-held town of Harasta, cutting it off from the rest of the suburbs known as 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).
The limited operation came as the powerful Jaish al-Islam said HTS fighters would be evacuated to the northern province of Idlib, in an arrangement struck following consultations with the United Nations and other worldwide players.
"Shelling in proximity of Douma, east Ghouta today, is putting the UN/ICRC/SARC convoy at risk, despite assurances of safety from parties including the Russian Federation", the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Zaatari, said.
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 Islamist insurgents over the area's civilians.
For President Bashar al-Assad, the capture of Ghouta would mark a major victory as he builds on the military momentum created by Russia's 2015 entry into the war, which has restored his rule over swathes of Syria.
The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman.
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The military further assured that the operations are conducted in a manner that it only targets the terrorist and no civilian gets hurt.
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Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam has agreed to evacuate jihadist fighters being held in its prisons in besieged Eastern Ghouta, a statement says.
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.
A United Nations aid convoy has managed to enter the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta in Syria which has been under intense bombardment, officials say. Another man said there were 15 families in the basement who have been hiding for days.
The four civilians were trying to pass through a recently opened humanitarian corridor from Jisrein to Mlekha during the twelfth humanitarian pause, SANA reported citing its journalist on the ground on Saturday.
Also Saturday, the Syrian forces captured the town of Mesraba, a strategic area in the central part of Eastern Ghouta, which enables the Syrian army to tighten its recent move of splitting Eastern Ghouta in half as it links several towns and areas in Eastern Ghouta with one another.
The government has repeatedly denied using chlorine gas.
Syrian state television showed a massive plume of dark smoke rising behind houses and trees in Eastern Ghouta, with the sound of blasts in the background.