Syrian government forces claim 25 percent of Eastern Ghouta

Syrian government forces gained control of several villages and farms in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta Sunday.

Syrian government forces claimed about 25 percent of the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Sunday after advancing from several fronts to gain control of farms and villages. Photo by Youssef Badawi/ EPA
Syrian government forces claimed about 25 percent of the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Sunday after advancing from several fronts to gain control of farms and villages. Photo by Youssef Badawi/ EPA

Syria’s military claimed about 25 percent of the Damascus suburb, monitors for the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A United Nations aid convoy planned for Sunday hasn’t been able to enter the enclave amid the fighting.

Government forces advanced from several fronts, mostly gaining control of villages and farms controlled by the al-Nusra Front on the eastern side of the enclave, according to state media.

The rebel group Jaish al-Islam issued a statement saying it retreated from two areas in Eastern Ghouta and accused the Syrian regime of employing a “scorched earth” strategy of bombardment.

Hundreds of people reportedly fled the bombardment and headed westward, where fighting is less intense.

The White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer rescue group, reported on Friday that 674 civilians had died since the beginning of air attacks on Feb. 18, which have persisted despite the United Nations Security Council unanimously approving a 30-day cease-fire last week.

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed the situation in Syria is a “humanitarian catastrophe, and that the overwhelming responsibility for the heart-breaking human suffering lay with the Syrian regime and Russia, as the regime’s main backer,” during a phone call on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron made a separate phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging him to exert “necessary pressure” on Syria to halt “indiscriminate” attacks on civilians in Eastern Ghouta.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed the military’s offensive against rebels in East Ghouta will continue.

“The operation against terrorism must continue, while at the same time civilians will continue to have the possibility to evacuate from the war zone,” he said.

By Daniel Uria