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Thousands of Eastern Ghouta residents flee as Syrian regime forces advance

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.

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.