Syrian forces split Eastern Ghouta in half

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took control of nearly half of Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, essentially cutting off one half of the enclave from the other, the government said.

Syrian forces carried out military operations against Jabhat al-Nusra rebels in Hosh al-Ashaari and al-Mohamadieh in Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday. File Photo courtesy of SANA/EPA-EFE
Syrian forces carried out military operations against Jabhat al-Nusra rebels in Hosh al-Ashaari and al-Mohamadieh in Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday. File Photo courtesy of SANA/EPA-EFE

Rebel fighters in the Hammouriyeh neighborhood surrendered to government troops and agreed to leave the enclave. State-run TV said residents there welcomed the arrival of Assad forces.
The government said it had taken control of between 30 percent and 40 percent of Ghouta since mid-February.

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said recent government shelling in Eastern Ghouta has killed 62 people, including eight children. The agency said ground clashes have escalated and include Syrian and Russian officers.

Britain’s The Independent reported regime forces had been redeployed to Ghouta from other areas of Syria.

Meanwhile, U.N. Security Council President Karel van Oosterom on Wednesday called for a cease-fire so that humanitarian workers can deliver food and medical aid. France and Britain called for a U.N. Security Council meeting because Syria has ignored a 30-day cessation ordered two weeks ago.

“We’ve called this meeting with the U.K. because the Syrian regime, as we speak, keeps besieging and bombing its own citizens in eastern Ghouta in complete violation of Resolution 2401 that was unanimously adopted by the council,” French U.N. representative Francois Delattre told Voice of America.

U.N. convoys of aid arrived in the enclave Monday but government forces seized some of the supplies.

About 400,000 people remain trapped in eastern Ghouta, which has been under attack by government forces since 2013. The intensity of the attacks has accelerated in the past two weeks, during which about 700 civilians were reported killed.

By Danielle Haynes