World News

Syria: Chemical weapons workshop found in liberated-Ghouta

Syria: Chemical weapons workshop found in liberated-Ghouta

Assad and his ally Russian Federation say the assault on eastern Ghouta is needed to end the rule of insurgents over the civilian population and to stop mortar fire on nearby Damascus.

After the army advances split up the enclave, Jaish al-Islam emerged as the strongest group in the town of Douma, Ahrar al-Sham in the town of Harasta and Failaq al-Rahman in the new southern pocket of eastern Ghouta.

State-run Syrian TV broadcast footage showing a group of men, women and children it says left the town of Madyara after it was captured by Syrian troops on Sunday.

It said existing basement bomb shelters were so overcrowded that some families were being forced to sleep out in the open, and that at least 70 people had been buried in a park because air strikes made it unsafe to reach the town's cemetery.

Syrian state media also reported army advances near Jisreen and Aftaris in the southeastern part of the rebel-held territory.

The assault on Ghouta is one of the heaviest in the war, which enters its eighth year this week.

Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained the target of a crippling siege by the Syrian regime - of which Russian Federation is a major ally - for the last five years.

Defeat in eastern Ghouta would deliver the rebels their biggest blow since December 2016, when a government offensive drove them from Aleppo, their largest urban stronghold.

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The destruction from the military onslaught has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis, with more than 1,000 people in urgent need of medical evacuation.

Last week, as pro-government forces advanced steadily towards urban centres in the heart of the Eastern Ghouta, there were two meetings between Russian officials and Jaysh al-Islam on the outskirts of the enclave observed by the UN.

Rebel groups in eastern Ghouta have vowed they will fight on.

On Monday, Syrian forces pounded two rebel towns in Eastern Ghouta, pressing on with a Russia-backed offensive that has so far allowed government fighters to retake almost 60 percent of the enclave. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Monday for the first time that the death toll had passed half a million people.

The Security Council demanded a 30-day ceasefire across Syria in a unanimously adopted February 24 resolution.

"I can say all the factions in the south are in a state of full readiness and alertness with all their equipment and fighting force", said Khaled al-Faraj, the commander of a rebel group operating in Quneitra province.

France is prepared to launch targeted strikes against any site in Syria used to deploy chemical attacks that result in the deaths of civilians, President Emmanuel Macron said.

Since then, Washington has repeatedly accused Damascus of using chlorine gas in attacks.


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