Syria army intensifies fight against rebels in Eastern Ghouta

Syria army intensifies fight against rebels in Eastern Ghoutaā€¯

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Wednesday that the Astana peace process for Syria has failed and questioned Moscow's commitment to a ceasefire in the Damascus enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

Capturing Mesraba would be a major step towards severing the northern half of the Ghouta, including its biggest town, Douma, from the southern part.

The coalition air raid last March 21, which hit a school being used as a temporary shelter for displaced families, killed at least 150 people, including more than 20 children. "Another aid convoy is scheduled to enter eastern Ghouta on Thursday, but Laerke said security measures must be guaranteed for this to happen".

Eastern Ghouta, which houses around 400,000 residents, has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years with humanitarian access being completely cut off.

Regime ally Russian Federation last week announced a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" in the region, during which it said it would guarantee safe passage to civilians wishing to flee the enclave.

In his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the government's actions in the area are "legally and morally unsustainable", while warning that the next nightmare for Syrian civilians will inevitably arrive soon. The Observatory said an extra 700 pro-government militia fighters had arrived at the front as reinforcements to join the operation. "It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered".

The Syrian regime launched a ferocious assault on a rebel enclave outside Damascus on February 18, saying it wanted to crush Islamist groups and jihadists. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in his turn, has said that two advanced Su-57 fighter jets have returned home after a testing program in Syria.

Dramatic videos released by the opposition's Syrian Civil Defence on Wednesday showed rescuers digging away hard-packed rubble to rescue a dust-covered little boy and a baby girl in the town of Arbeen.

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"The majority (of people) in Eastern Ghouta want to escape the embrace of terrorism".

Meanwhile, state news agency SANA renewed accusing the rebels of preventing the civilians from leaving rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta toward the government areas through the Wafidin crossing northeast of Damascus.

"Recent attempts to justify indiscriminate, brutal attacks on hundreds of thousands of civilians by the need to combat a few hundred fighters - as in Eastern Ghouta - are legally, and morally, unsustainable", he told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

AFP correspondents in Eastern Ghouta heard warplanes overhead carrying all out strikes on the battleground towns.

In the latest attempt to end the seven-year war, the foreign ministers of government allies Iran and Russian Federation and rebel backer Turkey are to meet next week in Astana.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on all parties in Syria to implement a nationwide cease-fire, as the U.N. Security Council prepares to meet Wednesday to discuss the ignored 30-day halt in fighting it demanded in a resolution almost two weeks ago.

Russian Federation and Syria have claimed that rebels are holding civilians captive in eastern Ghouta to serve as human shields, while rebel groups say civilians fear conscription or arrest if they enter regime territory.

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