Syria war: Residents flee Eastern Ghouta bombardment

Fighting in the Eastern Ghouta, Syria, 3 March 2018Image copyright

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More than 600 people have been killed in the past week in the Eastern Ghouta

Residents are reported to be fleeing the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave in Syria as the situation there was described as “beyond critical”.

Syria’s military appears to be increasing pressure on several fronts to try to retake the enclave just to the east of the capital, Damascus.

Government forces have taken 10% of the area, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitors say.

A UN aid convoy planned for Sunday has not been able to enter the enclave.

The UN said it had failed to obtain permission from Syrian officials for 40 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies for the key town of Douma.

“Instead of a much-needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed,” UN regional humanitarian co-ordinator Panos Moumtzis said.

“This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable.”

Some 393,000 people are trapped in the besieged enclave.

Neither a daily five-hour truce ordered by the Russians – Syria’s main backers – nor a nationwide ceasefire demanded by the UN Security Council have led to any humanitarian relief for the enclave.

Opposition sources and journalists on the ground speak of hundreds of people fleeing the bombardment of Beit Sawa on the eastern edge of the densely populated centre of the Eastern Ghouta – a sizeable region which also comprises towns and agricultural land.

Residents, many of them women and children, are reported to have fled into the centre of the enclave to seek shelter. Fighting has intensified in Beit Sawa between government forces and Jaish al-Islam, one of three main rebel groups.

A resident speaking to the BBC described the situation in the Eastern Ghouta as “beyond critical”.

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Media caption“At least in heaven there’s food”: The children caught up in Eastern Ghouta air strikes

Several reports suggest government forces are attempting to cut the region in two.

State media on Sunday said government forces were advancing on several fronts round the Eastern Ghouta, and national TV broadcast live footage of areas Syria’s military claims to have retaken.

The military has been accused of targeting civilians, but it says it is trying to liberate the region, one of the last rebel strongholds, from those it terms terrorists.

The fighting since 18 February has left more than 600 people dead, many of them children.

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