The Syrian regime reconquers half of the rebel stronghold of Guta

Ⓒ AFP – ABDULMONAM EASSA – | Syrian civil defense volunteers help a man in the town of Hamuriya during a bombing of the regime of Bashar al-Assad against the rebel enclave of Guta Oriental, on March 6, 2018

The Syrian regime reconquered more than half of the rebel enclave of Guta Oriental, the region east of Damascus that has suffered heavy bombing since February 18, which left dozens of civilians dead on Wednesday.

Thanks to a ground offensive, the regime of Bashar al-Assad already controls half of this enclave, where aerial bombings by the Syrian army killed more than 850 civilians – among about two hundred children – since February 18, according to the balance sheets communicated by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (OSDH).

The Syrian regime, supported by its Russian ally, has never hidden its determination to reconquer the last rebel stronghold at the gates of Damascus, where some 400,000 people have been besieged since 2013, suffering from a shortage of food and medicine.

“The regime’s forces control more than 50% of the rebel enclave”, in particular after the reconquest of the towns of Beit Sawa and Al Ashari, informed the director of the OSDH, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Their forces advanced towards Duma, the main city of the enclave, and the localities of the west of the region, after having reconquered sectors of the east and the Southeast of the bastion, according to the OSDH.

Ⓒ AFP – STRINGER – | A Syrian tank advances in the rebel town of Beit Nayem, in Guta Oriental, on March 6, 2018 in the Ghouta orientale, on 6 mars 2018

Aerial bombardment and artillery fire continued to fall in Guta, despite the five-hour daily truce (0700 to 1200 GMT) decreed by Moscow more than a week ago.

At least “45 civilians, including four children, died on Wednesday, most of them from Russian bombings,” the OSDH said, noting that these attacks left only 16 people dead in the town of Hamuriya.

On several occasions, the OSDH accused Russia of bombing Guta, which Moscow denies.

The objective of the regime, according to this oenege, is to split the enclave in two, isolating the northern sector, where the great city of Duma of the south is located.

The offensive continues despite the end of February resolution of the UN Security Council that called for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid and evacuate civilians.

This provision was not implemented and the Security Council met on Wednesday, behind closed doors, to discuss the absence of its implementation.

– “Phase of horror” –

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, accused the Syrian regime on Wednesday of planning an “apocalypse” in his country, considering that the conflict that ravaged Syria since 2011 entered a new “phase of horror”.

Ⓒ AFP – Marimé BRUNENGO – | Advance of the Syrian regime in Guta

An AFP correspondent in Duma reported explosions in the suburbs, forcing civilians to flee and take refuge in the city.

In a sector south of the enclave recently reconquered by the regime, soldiers loyal to Damascus patrolled aboard military vehicles on Wednesday.

The scene in Guta recalls what happened in 2016 in Aleppo (north), where the rebels ended up abandoning their stronghold after the siege and the devastating bombings of the regime and Moscow.

The daily truce in the rebel stronghold provides for a corridor to allow civilians to leave the enclave. Moscow said on Tuesday that the rebels are also authorized to leave.

The two main rebel groups, Jaich al Islam and Faylac al Rahman, denied being in contact or negotiating with Moscow.

– Help for 70,000 people –

Ⓒ AFP – Mohammed EYAD – | A Syrian boy attended in an improvised clinic in Kafr Batna after the bombings of the regime against rebel areas of Guta Oriental, on March 6, 2018

The rebel enclave represents only one third of the large agricultural region of Guta Oriental. The rest is in the hands of the regime.

Despite the fighting and bombings, the UN will try to send a new convoy of humanitarian aid on Thursday. On Monday the first had to shorten his mission due to the bombings against Duma.

It is expected that medical aid and food will meet the needs of 70,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

“We still do not know how many trucks there will be [in the convoy on Thursday] but it will carry the rest of the aid for the 70,000 people,” a spokeswoman for the Ocha in Damascus, Linda Tom, told AFP.

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