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Syrian army gains ground in eastern Ghouta

Syrian army gains ground in eastern Ghouta

Jaish al-Islam is one of the main insurgent factions in eastern Ghouta.

Almost 950 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed government forces launched a blistering assault on the last opposition bastion near Damascus on February 18.

The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman.

Last April, the US struck a military base in central Syria with more than 50 Tomahawk missiles, in retaliation to an alleged chemical attack by Syrian government forces on a rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib.

A charity called for desperately needed medical supplies to be allowed into the enclave, where exhausted doctors and nurses have been struggling to treat hundreds of wounded with very little equipment. ICRC spokeswoman Indy Sedky said the trucks crossed into eastern Ghouta yesterday "after getting security guarantees from all parties to make sure no incident will happen during the presence of our team" there. It is hard for aid convoys to reach eastern Ghouta and the worldwide community is failing to intervene.

The Observatory also said warplanes, helicopters and artillery had been used in bombardment of the area overnight.

Government troops and allied militia have recaptured half of the besieged region in a blistering assault launched on Feb 18.

The UN convoy was the first to reach the some 400,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta since the government began its offensive there in mid-February.

A negotiator from Hammuriyeh said a "civilian delegation" wanted to hold talks with the government to end the fighting in the area.

Since then they have reportedly taken control of half of the region, in an advance that is thought to have left more than 900 civilians dead.

Such evacuation deals have been repeatedly agreed in Syria's seven-year war, most notably in the second city of Aleppo in late 2016.

In rebel fire on Friday, a woman and a child were killed by a mortar round that hit the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, SANA said. President Bashar al-Assad vowed last week that Syrian forces would continue the campaign until the whole area is retaken.

Turkey-led rebels have been pressing an assault on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin since January 20.