Syrian troops advance in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, sending thousands fleeing

Turkish warplanes hit pro Syrian govt forces in Afrin kill 36

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had seized around a quarter of eastern Ghouta in a ground assault that began on February 27, building on a ferocious air and artillery bombardment that has killed hundreds.

Hamza Bayraqdar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, said on Twitter that the group's forces had launched "surprise attacks" against government positions.

At least one town was recaptured by the rebel troops as intense shelling and fighting continued.

Violence in eastern Ghouta has left more than 600 people dead since government forces and their allies escalated their offensive on the Damascus suburb on February 18, according to activists.

However, despite mounting worldwide pressure on Syria and its backer, Russia, to allow access for aid and the evacuation of the wounded and civilians, a promised daily five-hour humanitarian pause has failed to materialise as forces loyal to Assad continued to press their assault.

Russian Federation has accused the rebels of preventing civilians from leaving, allegations denied by the insurgents.

The Observatory said some 2,000 civilians had fled regime shelling and clashes in eastern parts of the enclave.

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As Syria's conflict this month approaches its seventh anniversary, President Bashar al-Assad's forces, heavily backed by Russian Federation, have retaken most of the territory once lost to rebels.

The UN Security Council demanded a 30-day countrywide ceasefire a week ago, but this has failed to take effect.

The United Nations later issued a statement saying it had received approval for a 46-truck convoy to the Ghouta town of Douma on Monday, carrying health and nutrition supplies, and food for 27,500 people.

"What we see in Eastern ghouta and other places in Syria, is likely war crimes and crimes against humanity", he said during a meeting of the UN Council on human rights in Geneva.

The UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, sounded the alarm on Sunday over the increase in violence. "This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable", he added.

Orient TV said advances by forces loyal to the Assad regime had triggered wide scale displacement. Turkish forces have taken control of the roads from Rajo and Jandaris to Afrin, it also said in a statement.

Assad, in his turn, accused the US-led coalition of effectively operating as an air force for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra front terrorist groups.

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