Syrian forces advance against Ghouta rebels


In February, Macron had promised "retaliation and an immediate response from France" if the Syrian regime was found guilty of using chemical weapons against civilians, adding it would eventually "be answerable to worldwide justice" for its crimes.

A small group of Syrian civilians left the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta just outside of Damascus on Monday while the area's largest armed rebel group said it agreed with Russian forces to have the wounded evacuated from the besieged territory.

The Observatory said on Monday that about 511,000 people had been killed since the Syrian war began.

Eastern Ghouta has been besieged for years after many of its residents joined the initial protests against Assad's rule in 2011 that triggered the slide into civil war.

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A delegation from Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was yesterday considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor told AFP. "There's an terrible lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas", he said.

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.

As the Syrian army pushes deeper into Eastern Ghouta under cover of a hammering bombardment, the 400,000 civilians the United Nations says live in the enclave have been crowded in dark basements to cower from the ceaseless bombing.

Its statement said the deal with the Russians was reached through the United Nations.

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Such deals, in which the choice is usually to accept state rule or leave, have helped Assad's military claw back control of major cities, with support from Russian Federation and Iran.

Last week, regime forces managed to seize Eastern Ghouta's strategic Misraba and Medyere neighborhoods, effectively cutting the district in two.

Turkey launched a solo military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish militia known as YPG to clear them from the enclave of Afrin.

Syrian government forces split eastern Ghouta in two amid rapid weekend advances, dealing a major setback to the rebels and threatening to exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation at the doorstep of the country's capital.

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The three-week-long campaign has killed more than 1,000 people since it started, including at least 23 civilians who died in government attacks on Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported.