Hundreds more pro-regime fighters tightening noose around shrinking rebel enclave of Ghouta
Syrians run for cover in Hamouria during Syrian government shelling on rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 6, 2018. Heavy air strikes and clashes shook the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, as France and Britain called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the escalating violence. / AFP / ABDULMONAM EASSA
Geneva/Beirut (Agencies) – Another “apocalypse” orchestrated by the Syrian regime and its foreign allies will follow the devastating crisis unfolding in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the UN human rights chief said Wednesday.
“This month, it is Eastern Ghouta which is, in the words of the Secretary General, hell on earth;next month or the month after, it will be somewhere else where people face an apocalypse – an apocalypse intended, planned and executed by individuals within the government, apparently with the full backing of some of their foreign supporters,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain said in his annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, hundreds more pro-regime fighters have been deployed to front lines in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Wednesday, tightening the noose around the shrinking rebel enclave.
“At least 700 Afghan, Palestinian, and Syrian loyalist militiamen came from Aleppo and were sent late Tuesday to Ghouta,” said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based monitor said the reinforcements were deployed to two main battlefronts on the western side of the enclave, including the town of Harasta.
The Syrian army and allied militia launched an offensive on February 18 to retake Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-controlled region near the capital Damascus.
They have since recaptured more than 40 per cent of the enclave with support from a devastating bombing campaign that has killed more than 800 civilians.
By Wednesday, regime troops were at the edges of several key towns, including Misraba, Beit Sawa, Jisreen and Hammuriyeh.
AFP correspondents in Eastern Ghouta heard warplanes overhead carrying all out strikes on the battleground towns.
Two barrel bombs hit Al Rihan, near the enclave’s largest town of Douma.
The raids came despite a daily “humanitarian pause” announced by Russia last week that is meant to bring calm to Eastern Ghouta between 9am and 2pm each day.
Moscow’s initiative has fallen short of the UN Security Council’s demand more than a week ago for an immediate ceasefire for Eastern Ghouta.
The council is to meet at 1500 GMT on Wednesday to discuss the failure of the truce to take hold.
Also, the Russian military has said a general was among 39 people killed in the crash of a Russian military transport plane in Syria.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the An-26 twin-engine turboprop crashed Tuesday while preparing to land at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, killing all 33 passengers and six crew on board. It later said a general was among those killed, and Russian media identified him as Maj. Gen. Vladimir Yeremeyev.
The ministry said late Tuesday that the plane was flying from the Kweires air base near Aleppo in northern Syria to Hemeimeem, which serves as the main hub for the Russian campaign in Syria. It said the plane did not come under fire and that the crash was likely caused by a technical failure.