Residents flee as Syrian regime takes control of villages in Eastern Ghouta

The Syrian regime has taken control of several villages in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, official news ag...

Posted: Mar 4, 2018 7:17 PM

The Syrian regime has taken control of several villages in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, official news agency SANA said Sunday, in a major turning point in a two-week offensive.

Regime forces gained control of villages on the eastern side of the besieged enclave, which it said were controlled by Al-Nusra Front, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

According to the SANA report, the rebel group had fired over 300 mortar shells and rockets on neighboring Damascus, killing and injuring scores of civilians.

It is the first time the Syrian regime has announced territory control of Eastern Ghouta since launching an offensive on the rebel-held enclave on the outskirts of Damascus on February 18.

The intense bombardment of Eastern Ghouta has caused thousands of residents to flee their homes and head westward where the fighting is less severe, civilians inside the suburb told CNN Sunday.

"The situation on the ground is catastrophic," surgeon Hamza Hassan, based in Irbin in Eastern Ghouta, told CNN via Whatsapp.

"There is massive internal displacement of 30,000 people from (the areas of) Beit Sawa, Otaya, the Douma villages," Hassan said.

"The regime has been hysterically bombing these areas and completely destroying towns and villages," he added.

Separately, the rebel group Jaish al-Islam said in a statement Saturday that its fighters had also retreated from two other areas in the east of Eastern Ghouta, accusing the regime of employing a "scorched earth" strategy of bombardment.

Ceasefire falls on deaf ears

The Syrian regime's foothold in Eastern Ghouta comes one week after the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted for a month-long ceasefire in the enclave, which is home to some 400,000 people.

The UN resolution provided little detail on when the ceasefire was meant to begin, how it would be enforced or even whether all the parties concerned were aware of it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, also ordered a daily five-hour pause in hostilities that was to have begun on Tuesday.

But both calls were ignored and rebel fighters holed up in Eastern Ghouta, as well as Syrian government forces, accused each other of breaking the truce.

Meanwhile, violence in the enclave rumbled on, including reports of chlorine gas attacks last week that were condemned by the White House.

In a Sunday statement, the White House again condemned "the ongoing military offensive that the Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, is perpetrating against the people of Eastern Ghouta."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders accused Russia of ignoring the UNSC's resolution that demanded a 30-day ceasefire to continue the offensive "under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations."

"The civilized world must not tolerate the Assad regime's continued use of chemical weapons," Sanders added.

Much-needed UN aid -- including a 45-truck convoy with enough supplies for 90,000 people in 10 locations -- was unable to enter the war-torn enclave.

In a statement released Sunday, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it hoped to deliver aid to parts of the area on Monday.

"We hope that the convoy may proceed as planned and will be followed by other convoys," said Ali Al-Za'tari, the UN's Syria Humanitarian Coordinator. "Our teams on the ground are ready to do all that is needed to make this happen."

In a Sunday phone call, French President Emanuel Macron asked his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, to put pressure on the Syrian regime to end its attacks on Eastern Ghouta and allow humanitarian aid to enter the area, according to a statement released by the Elysee Palace.

Macron and Rouhani "affirmed their agreement to work together" to get aid to the civilians who need it in the coming days, the statement said.

In the week since the UN's ceasefire resolution, not only had the violence failed to stop, it has actually escalated, according to Panos Moumtzis, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis.

"Instead of a much needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed," Moumtzis said in a statement Sunday.

"This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable," he added.

Almost 600 people are believed to have been killed and over 2,000 injured, since Syrian government forces launched an air and ground offensive on the rebel-held enclave on February 18, according to the statement.

Medical charity M-decins Sans Fronti-res (MSF), put the civilian death toll even higher Saturday, reporting that 770 had been killed and more than 4,000 wounded just between February 18 and February 27.

At the same time, ground-based strikes and mortar shelling from Eastern Ghouta have killed and injured scores of civilians in neighboring Damascus.

What is happening in Eastern Ghouta?

Eastern Ghouta is one of the last major rebel-held areas of the country, which has been ravaged by civil war for almost seven years.

Observers fear the area could face a similar fate to eastern Aleppo, which was all but destroyed in a government offensive in December 2016.

The regime's capture of that city marked a turning point in the war, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad taking back control of all four major cities in the country -- with the help of Russia.

Russia's intervention in the country's civil war in 2015 -- with troops and weaponry -- has helped tilt the balance in Assad's favor, with the push for Eastern Ghouta now more intense than ever.

The main rebel units actively holding territory in Eastern Ghouta are the Islamist Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al Rahman, which have taken part in peace negotiations in the past. According to activists, there are small pockets of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, still in the area.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 730969

Reported Deaths: 13434
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1000031743
Lake53771970
Allen40668678
St. Joseph35733552
Hamilton35629408
Elkhart28577442
Tippecanoe22402219
Vanderburgh22310397
Porter18776308
Johnson17970379
Hendricks17244315
Clark12985191
Madison12673339
Vigo12449247
LaPorte11928211
Monroe11893170
Delaware10696186
Howard9924216
Kosciusko9410117
Hancock8284141
Bartholomew8070156
Warrick7784155
Floyd7669178
Grant7060174
Wayne7051199
Boone6700101
Morgan6576139
Dubois6156117
Marshall6050111
Dearborn581378
Cass5808105
Henry5720103
Noble561384
Jackson501773
Shelby491996
Lawrence4546120
Harrison435872
Gibson435492
DeKalb428485
Clinton427453
Montgomery424189
Whitley396139
Huntington391980
Steuben387857
Miami381866
Knox371990
Jasper366047
Putnam360760
Wabash354179
Adams341354
Ripley339770
Jefferson330981
White314354
Daviess297399
Wells291581
Decatur285492
Fayette280762
Greene278985
Posey271533
LaGrange266770
Scott266354
Clay260247
Randolph240781
Washington240732
Spencer232131
Jennings230149
Starke216654
Fountain212346
Sullivan211942
Owen200256
Fulton195440
Jay195130
Carroll189320
Orange183654
Perry183037
Rush173425
Vermillion169143
Franklin168135
Tipton162845
Parke146316
Blackford134932
Pike134334
Pulaski116845
Newton107834
Brown102141
Crawford99814
Benton98614
Martin89115
Warren82115
Switzerland7918
Union71010
Ohio56811
Unassigned0416

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1085733

Reported Deaths: 19441
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1261201400
Cuyahoga1124072120
Hamilton801491206
Montgomery515591014
Summit47292946
Lucas42275788
Butler38396584
Stark32412907
Lorain25046481
Warren24313300
Mahoning21629588
Lake20725369
Clermont19803238
Delaware18537133
Licking16436212
Fairfield16230200
Trumbull16082468
Medina15309264
Greene15099244
Clark14017299
Wood13113189
Portage12890203
Allen11675232
Richland11382199
Miami10686217
Wayne8843211
Columbiana8816229
Muskingum8815133
Pickaway8582121
Marion8539135
Tuscarawas8487244
Erie7917154
Hancock6929127
Ross6858155
Ashtabula6830170
Geauga6697148
Scioto6417101
Belmont5920167
Union571048
Lawrence5560102
Jefferson5544151
Huron5439119
Darke5364123
Sandusky5359121
Seneca5290121
Athens520058
Washington5160109
Auglaize491984
Mercer480885
Shelby470093
Knox4495110
Madison436661
Putnam4287100
Fulton423969
Ashland423189
Defiance421097
Crawford3978107
Brown395057
Logan382376
Preble379898
Clinton372963
Ottawa367479
Highland355662
Williams340275
Champaign333458
Guernsey316253
Jackson312652
Perry295350
Morrow285639
Fayette282250
Hardin271464
Henry269366
Coshocton265357
Holmes2611101
Van Wert243763
Adams238552
Pike237734
Gallia235949
Wyandot231555
Hocking215462
Carroll191647
Paulding173340
Meigs144940
Noble133337
Monroe132342
Harrison108537
Morgan108523
Vinton83515
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Angola
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 41°
Decatur
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Van Wert
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 42°
High pressure will pave the way to another mostly sunny and pleasant day.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events