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Aid convoy enters Syria's eastern Ghouta, heads to Douma as assault pauses

09 Mars 2018

The Syrian army says it's on the verge of cutting through the surrounded, rebel-held area of east Ghouta near the capital Damascus.

The 13 truckloads of aid that entered the rebel-held Douma district in the Eastern Ghouta countryside east of Damascus have unloaded the shipment, according to Inji Sedky, the spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Fore warned that malnourishment "is now more worrying for us than ever".

The Syrian army has recaptured almost all the farmland in eastern Ghouta in less than two weeks, leaving about half the area still under insurgent control.

Previous government sieges of opposition-held areas have ended with thousands of civilians leaving for other parts of the country.

MSF said on Thursday the offensive had killed 1,005 people and injured at least 4,829.

Twenty-eight civilians were killed Wednesday by Syrian Government airstrikes in besieged Eastern Ghouta, according to rebels' civil defense agency.

Thursday's attack near the town of Hamouriyah is the fifth alleged chemical gas attack by pro-government forces in East Ghouta since the beginning of the year, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) reported on Wednesday.

Rebels, who accuse the government of "scorched earth" tactics, said they were deploying more guerrilla-style ambushes in lost territory, trying to stop further advances.

The most densely populated areas in eastern Ghouta are still under rebel control, including the towns of Douma, Harasta, Kfar Batna, Saqba and Hammouriyeh.

Opposition activists say that since the bombardment of eastern Ghouta began on February 18, some 900 people including hundreds of children have been killed. "It is impossible to cross into the frontline and to go in to help desperate civilians, women and children that we know are on the starvation point".

There were no medical supplies on board Friday's convoy, which was carrying food that aid workers were unable to distribute on Monday.

Russian Federation accused the insurgents of preventing people from leaving the area, an allegation the rebels denied.

A reporter contributing to AFP saw the trucks on Thursday parked on the edges of Eastern Ghouta, at the government-controlled Wafideen checkpoint.

Overnight, pro-opposition activists and medical charities reported a devastating uptick in the government's onslaught, including unconfirmed reports that chlorine has been used in a chemical weapons attack, an assertion the government denied.

Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported that Hasan Ali Badran died on Thursday as Syrian troopers and their allies were engaged in fierce clashes against members of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, in the besieged area.

Continued air strikes by Syrian regime forces have killed at least 19 civilians in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta even as the United Nations body for children raised concerns over blocked delivery of aid to the war-torn region.

"Although we have committed to a daily humanitarian truce, the terrorists continue to indiscriminately shell Damascus", he said, speaking in response to remarks by United Nations human rights boss Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Wednesday.

A Syria-focused medical aid group said there were reports from doctors of a chlorine attack on Wednesday evening. He spoke during a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart in Vienna.

Aid convoy enters Syria's eastern Ghouta, heads to Douma as assault pauses