Syrian Arab Army liberates largest town in Ghouta

Delegation from Syria rebel enclave mulls evacuation deal

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said on Saturday that warplanes, helicopters and artillery were used in bombardment of the area overnight. The civilian death toll has since risen to around 900.

While ICRC officials expect this latest convoy to successfully deliver its cargo, humanitarian organisations say it is not almost enough aid for the estimated 400,000 people trapped in the area.

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.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has described the city as "hell on Earth", while the UN's human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein blamed the Syrian regime for orchestrating an "apocalypse".

ICRC, SARC and United Nations teams in Eastern Ghouta delivered 2,400 food parcels that can sustain 12,000 people for one month, as well as 3,248 bags of flour, the ICRC said in a statement.

Humanitarian access to those in need must be guaranteed. "No", he said in a text message when asked if the report was correct.

Before the war, eastern Ghouta provided a good portion of the Damascus' food.

It would seal a string of military victories for the Syrian leader since the entry of Russian jets into the war on his side in 2015 turned the course of the conflict against the insurgents.

Eastern Ghouta has been besieged since 2013 but a relentless assault over the past three weeks has seen the Syrian army capture half of the territory, and is estimated to have killed almost 1,000 people.

SYRIAN regime forces today cut off the largest town in Eastern Ghouta from the rest of the opposition enclave, in a blow to rebels defending their last bastion near Damascus.

"If I thought about leaving Ghouta I would worry about the regime because there are no guarantees: and, second, I would worry about Jaish al-Islam, because they won't let us leave", said one activist in Douma.

Rebels in recent days tried to slow the advance with an attempted counter-offensive, but were struggling to hold off President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

During rebel infighting in the enclave, analysts and some residents say, the Army of Islam's main rival, Faylaq Al Rahman, has sometimes formed opportunistic alliances with H.T.S.

State TV said 13 fighters and their families had arrived at the crossing point.

Air strikes started up again after the evacuation, killing nine people and injuring around 28, the Observatory said.

The situation in the militant-held region escalated last month after government forces launched an operation dubbed "Damascus Steel", in a bid to clear the region of militants.

Bilal Abu Salah, a resident of Douma, said shortages were causing great hardship.

The Syrian government has opened what it calls safe routes out of the enclave, but no civilians are known to have left yet.

"Living conditions are harsh..." The Observatory has reported protests in one village to demand an end to the bombardment and the departure of rebels.

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