Thousands of civilians have fled advances by Syrian government forces in eastern Ghouta in the last two days, a war monitor and a resident said, as Damascus makes rapid gains against the last major rebel enclave near the capital.
Government forces need to advance just a few more kilometres (miles) further to split the enclave in two, said a commander in the alliance that backs President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had seized around a quarter of eastern Ghouta in a ground assault that began on Feb. 27, building on a ferocious air and artillery bombardment that has killed hundreds, according to Reuters.
One of the main insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, said the“scorched earth policy” had forced rebels to retreat and regroup, but vowed to recover lost territory.
A U.N. humanitarian official said 400,000 people in eastern Ghouta were being subjected to unacceptable“collective punishment”, which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, Reuters explained.
The official called for the implementation of a 30-day ceasefire demanded by the U.N. Security Council a week ago. U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Thursday for its immediate implementation, Reuters added.