Syrian forces advance against Ghouta rebels


US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday warned the Syrian regime not to use chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta.

The largest rebel group in Syria's eastern Ghouta region, just outside the capital of Damascus, says it has agreed with Russian forces to have wounded people evacuated from the enclave.

Citing pro-government media, the AP said that the Syrian army and allied forces established a corridor that cuts through the opposition holdout after capturing the town of Mudeira on Sunday.

All three towns are controlled by Islamist rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, which has repeatedly denied engaging in talks with the regime.

The official pointed out that the situation in Eastern Ghouta remained tense with militants having shelled Damascus from Eastern Ghouta with seven 120-mm shells.

Thousands of families are sleeping in the open in the streets of the biggest town of Syria's rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave, where there is no longer any room in packed cellars to shelter from government bombardment, local authorities said.

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

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Hundreds of people have been killed in the Syrian army's fierce air and artillery bombardment of eastern Ghouta since February 18 as President Bashar al-Assad's government seeks to crush the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus. "There's an very bad lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas", he said.

As the differences lingered, regime forces have splintered eastern Ghouta towns and villages into three isolated pockets.

"The center also held talks with the leadership of a number of settlements in Eastern Ghouta on ensuring civilians' access to medical care and humanitarian aid".

The workshop was discovered in a recently-liberated area in Eastern Ghouta where Syrian troops are fighting foreign-backed extremists and Takfiri terrorists, Russian news agencies reported Monday, citing a field commander.

Its statement said the deal with the Russians was reached through the United Nations. Turkey launched a military offensive against the US -backed Syrian Kurdish militia known as YPG, to clear its fighters from the enclave of Afrin.

The area is home to around 400,000 people living under a crippling government siege since 2013 and struggling to access food, medicine, and other basic necessities.