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Aid reaches Ghouta as strikes hit rebel enclave

Aid reaches Ghouta as strikes hit rebel enclave

Eastern Ghouta is the last remaining opposition-controlled zone on the outskirts of the capital, and rebels there have regularly fired rockets onto Damascus.

The group, Jaish al-Islam, said in a statement on Twitter on Friday that it will allow captive militant fighters to leave eastern Ghouta for Idlib Province, also held by rebels.

The achievement of exposing the entire surrounding of Harasta to the fire of the Syrian army comes after the Syrian government forces captured areas near the road between Harasta and the Douma district in Eastern Ghouta, said the report.

The military has been accused of targeting civilians, but it says it is trying to liberate the region - one of the last rebel strongholds - from those it terms terrorists.

But the group represents only a small portion of the insurgent presence in the enclave, and both Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman have said they would not negotiate a similar deal for themselves.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main ally Russian Federation say the campaign in eastern Ghouta is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and the rule of Islamist insurgents over the area's civilians.

The Syrian army is making steady advances in the enclave, but it is facing a hostile West, which is threatening airstrikes to stop the push.

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

In the past three weeks, over 900 people have been killed in eastern Ghouta, according to the UK-based monitoring group.

Keen to secure Damascus, government troops and allied militias have been closing in on the enclave since February 18 and have overrun more than half of it.

"It has been agreed that the first group of HTS members be released from the prisons of Jaish al-Islam ..."

According to the report, the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for the use of sarin in the Khan Sheikhoun incident, while Daesh* is responsible for the use of sulfur mustard in Umm Hawsh.

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.

At least 20 civilians - including four children - were killed in Douma on Saturday, in addition to 17 civilians in other battlefront towns, said the Observatory. Russian military outposts in the country have also come under rebel attacks recently, including a massive drone raid earlier this year involving 13 aircraft equipped with satellite navigation.

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