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Observatory: Syria regime launches ground offensive on Ghouta

Syrians look for survivors after the Assad regime carried out air strikes in Eastern Ghouta, Syria on 27 February 2018 [Diaa Al Din Samout/Anadolu Agency]

Government forces of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad launched a ground offensive on the besieged enclave of Ghouta yesterday, despite a Russian plan for five-hour daily ceasefires, sources on both sides have confirmed.

Government forces launched an assault targeting the Hawsh Al-Dawahra area at the eastern edge of the opposition-held province. A commander in the elite unit of the Syrian army, the Tiger Force, confirmed that the military was taking part in the assault, but that the advances so far were small.

Opposition groups have attempted to repel the incursion and, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have inflicted heavy losses on regime forces.

The attack follows reports last week that the regime has been sending reinforcements to the area since the start of last month, which were only waiting for the "green light" before launching the assault.

In an exclusive report, Syrian journalist Mahmoud Seraj told MEMO that 560 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded as a result of the Assad regime's bombing of Ghouta between 19-27 February. Some 600 of those injured are children and more than 500 are women.

Read: Baby Karim lives underground to elude East Ghouta siege

Airstrikes have continued to take place across the suburb, despite Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's announcement of a daily five-hour ceasefire to be implemented in the enclave to allow a safe route for the wounded to be evacuated and civilians to escape.

The truce has been criticised for exempting from the ceasefire Jaish Al-Islam, an opposition group that controls the majority of eastern Ghouta, and the smaller Ahrar Ash-Shaam group, describing them as partners of the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam (HTS), despite both participating in internationally recognised talks. The caveat has allowed bombardment to continue, with the regime stating that it is targeting terrorist groups.

On Saturday, the UN Security council voted unanimously in favour of a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, as rescuers in Ghouta said a week of perpetual bombing had not let up long enough for them to count bodies during one of the bloodiest air assaults of the seven-year war. Shortly after the vote, warplanes struck another town in the province.

The UN has repeatedly condemned the continued attacks and called on Russia and Syria to abide by the resolution, stating on Tuesday that it was proving impossible to aid civilians or evacuate wounded due to the continuing airstrikes.

Read: Elderly Pakistani couple evacuated from besieged Ghouta

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