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United States pushes UN for Ghouta truce as Trump considers Syria options

12 March 2018

The army's onslaught in eastern Ghouta, backed by air and artillery strikes, has killed about 1,160 people since February 18, a war monitor said, as President Bashar al-Assad seeks to crush the last big rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.

The push dealt a major blow to the region's embattled rebel groups, who have been battered by airstrikes and artillery attacks since Damascus stepped up attacks on the rebel stronghold last month.

Kafr Batna is one of several areas in the besieged enclave where talks are ongoing between local dignitaries and the regime on a possible evacuation to other areas of the country under rebel control.

The largest rebel group in eastern Ghouta, the Army of Islam, said it agreed with Russian forces to evacuate the wounded from the enclave. "The parties discussed issues related to withdrawal of the Jabhat al Nusra formations from Eastern Ghouta to Idlib as well as further destiny of the Faylaq al-Rahman group's members", Zolotukhin said. The cellars were already packed before that.

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The civilians used a corridor established by the Syrian army amid the military's gains that have effectively divided eastern Ghouta into three parts.

But sources on the ground disputed these claims, saying that no civilians have attempted to leave the rebel enclave but instead remain holed up in underground cellars.

Antonio Guterres said Monday that the eastern Ghouta enclave is "now split into three separate pockets".

According to Hassoun, the situation in Harasta is becoming increasingly hard as hundreds of families are facing one of two options: remaining in their homes and underground refuges as air strikes target them or handing themselves over to government forces. The town was captured by Syrian troops on Sunday.

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Seven years of conflict in Syria have left more than 350,000 people dead, according to an updated overall death toll released today by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

People in Eastern Ghouta say they dread a similar fate. It would also be the worst setback for rebels since the opposition was ousted from the eastern half of the city of Aleppo in late 2016 following a similar siege and bombing campaign.

"Either Russia is incompetent or in cahoots with Assad".

Shots were fired at the crowd by unknown people and one person was killed, it said.

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"The city of Douma, under the control of Jaysh al-Islam, is now witnessing Russian-brokered talks aimed at encouraging rebels evacuate to other parts of Syria (either Daraa or northern Aleppo) and organizing the release of hostages among which there are captured Syrian troops and civilians", the news agency says.

United States pushes UN for Ghouta truce as Trump considers Syria options