Aid reaches Syria's Ghouta amid renewed regime attacks

Syrian state television today said a number of fighters and their families had begun to leave the besieged rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus.

Fresh shelling of Eastern Ghouta endangered a vital aid delivery on Friday, almost three weeks into a blistering Syrian regime offensive that has seized more than half of the rebel enclave.

The trucks had been stuck at the Wafideen crossing the entire week, waiting to enter to deliver the remaining food parcels and flour bags.

"Burnt", he said.Defeat in eastern Ghouta would mark the worst setback for rebels since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing and ground assaults.

Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the violence on Friday with at least six killed in air strikes on the area of Jisreen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey's military and its rebel allies have besieged the northern Syrian town of Afrin and were nearing its town center, which would mark a major advance in Turkey's military operation.

The humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, home to hundreds of thousands of people, is dire, according to the United Nations and the Red Cross.

TV footage later showed dozens of men, women and children crowded in an underground basement in Misraba after troops captured the area. Damascus and Moscow accuse the rebels of preventing people from fleeing the fighting.

Before the war, eastern Ghouta provided a good portion of the Damascus' food. "The security of humanitarian workers, as well as that of civilians, must be guaranteed at all times", Mardini said.

Image copyright EPA Image caption The first 13 were said to have been transported out using the Syrian government designated al-Wafidden corridor Who are the rebel groups?

One of the area's two main rebel groups, Jaish al-Islam, said it had agreed with the United Nations to allow the evacuation of fighters that it was holding from Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist factions linked to the Nusra Front.

A spokesman for one of the rebel groups, however, told Reuters that neither Harasta nor Douma were cut off. The roads connecting the towns to each other were all covered by army fire, the Observatory said.

The situation in the Syrian rebel-held stronghold of Eastern Ghouta remains tense, despite the February 24 UNSC resolution urging all parties to adhere to a long-term humanitarian pause across the country in order to ensure the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations of the injured.

Residents will have to rely on unpaved roads to move in eastern Ghouta, but that is hard because of the intensity of shelling and airstrikes, activists said.

  • Rogelio Becker