Death toll tops 1000 in regime's assault on Syria's Ghouta: monitor

Death toll tops 1000 in regime's assault on Syria's Ghouta: monitor

Death toll tops 1000 in regime's assault on Syria's Ghouta: monitor

Apart from Islamist groups such as Jaish al-Islam, jihadists from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), who are mostly linked to Al-Qaeda, are also deployed there.

The roads connecting the towns to each other were all covered by army fire, the observatory said.

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

State TV showed 13 bearded men it said had earlier handed themselves over to authorities boarding a bus.

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

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the aid convoy passed through front lines and was heading to the enclave's biggest town, Douma. He said they would "purge" the town and then carry on further east.

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.

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Despite two weeks of air strikes and artillery bombardment that have killed nearly 950 civilians, the main rebel groups have so far rejected Russian-brokered offers to evacuate civilians or any of their own fighters.

The violence has continued despite a United Nations security council resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid "without delay". "None of the civilians has been able to leave the enclave over the last 24 hours", Yevtushenko said.

He told journalists there had also been discussions for "500 fighters to hand over their weapons to the army".

Some 400,000 people are still thought to live in the area, seven years into Syria's civil war.

The UN secretary general has described the situation in eastern Ghouta as "hell on earth" and the body's high commissioner for human rights described the military offensive as a "monstrous annihilation".

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

In January, Turkey began an offensive to oust the Kurdish YPG militia from the Afrin region in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.

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