Hell on earth: Eastern Ghouta

Hell on earth: Eastern Ghouta

Hell on earth: Eastern Ghouta

A Syrian soldier secures aid convoy after its return from eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria March 9, 2018.

According to Syrian state media, 13 fighters were evacuated with their families through the al-Wafeedin passage and bussed to Idlib province.

The Syrian government and its key ally Russian Federation say a daily five-hour pause, which began in principle last week, does not apply to the targeting of some of the rebel groups within Eastern Ghouta.

Grandi added that while most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon have expressed a desire to return to their home country, "almost all of them say not right now" and any plans of them returning are "very premature".

But the government of President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to continue military operations, as it regards nearly all rebel groups as terrorists.

It said the initiative was "based on consultations between Jaish al-Islam and the United Nations, and a number of worldwide actors".

Other Syrian media outlets also reported that the army had made progress against the rebels.

A spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in Eastern Ghouta, said rebels had repelled the Mesraba attack.

The rebels in Eastern Ghouta are not one cohesive group.

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

Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad have essentially split off Douma from the rest of eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a day after a Red Cross and United Nations aid convoy arrived in the town to unload food supplies to thousands of civilians in desperate need.

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

Meanwhile, the Russian defense ministry extended an offer for armed rebels and their families — not just civilians — to leave eastern Ghouta through a safe corridor set up earlier for civilians, though none have left.

It follows a pause in Syrian government air strikes overnight, with the situation in the besieged enclave on Friday described as "calm". A Reuters reporter said there was small arms and mortar fire from rebel areas on the al-Wafideen crossing on Friday.

The government has repeatedly denied using chlorine gas.

"Living conditions are harsh". Meanwhile, Syrian state TV reported that the battles in eastern Ghouta have intensified.

"The bomb shelters and basements are full, and people are sleeping in the streets and in public gardens", the statement said.

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