Syrian regime launches apparent ground assault on Eastern Ghouta

People go about their lives in the northwestern city of Azaz Syria during a Turkish government-organized media tour Saturday. Already in the sixth week of its offensive on the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria Turkey wants to oust the

Syrian government forces have seized about one quarter of the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta in recent days, activists say.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory, said at least 12 regime fighters had been killed in two areas, Al-Rihan and Shifoniya, in overnight clashes with the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization which reports on the war, estimated that between 300 to 400 families had fled, adding that regime bombardment was focused on the town of Mesraba.

According to Yevtushenko, twenty-four mines were fired at Damascus and its suburbs from Eastern Ghouta in the past day.

Meanwhile, no civilians have left Ghouta through a humanitarian corridor set up by Russian Federation and the Syrian government almost a week ago.

Three people were also killed when Assad regime forces attack a residential area between Misraba and Duma districts with rocket and mortar shells.

The U.N. said 15,000 people have reportedly been driven from their homes in January, the majority staying in shelters and basements around Ghouta.

The bombing and shelling of civilians in Eastern ghouta and other parts of Syria may have characteristics of war crimes.

A convoy of "46 truckloads of health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people in need" would finally enter the battered enclave on Monday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Rebels in Eastern Ghouta have survived years of siege but now are succumbing to a tried and tested military tactic of siege compounded with overwhelming bombardment.

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A picture taken on February 25, 2018, shows a Syrian man walking next to damaged buildings following regime air strikes in the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

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

A United Nations humanitarian official said people in eastern Ghouta were being subjected to unacceptable "collective punishment", which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

Russian Federation and Iran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial support throughout the seven-year civil war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on peaceful protests.

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

The death toll in the region may rise as the attacks are still ongoing. The Observatory said the advancing forces could soon besiege Afrin city, where 1 million people live.

Turkey's army said on Sunday it captured seven settlements including the town of Sheikh Hadid.

The 30-day cessation of hostilities does not apply to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL), Al-Nusra Front or any other terrorist groups.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is deemed a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

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