March 23, 2018

USA warns Syria regime not to use poisonous gas

13 March 2018, 03:54 | Darnell Patrick

REUTERS Omar Sanadiki

REUTERS  Omar Sanadiki

"We are afraid of the assault", Bakkar said of the government's efforts to take the town amid a ferocious campaign of shelling and airstrikes. The sound of blasts could be heard.

At least eight raids struck the rebel-held towns of Busr al-Harir, Hrak, al-Gharaiya al-Gharbiya and al-Sowara in rural areas in eastern Deraa province in southern Syria, two rebel officials told Reuters. "Everyone is very scared of what's coming now that the Turkish occupying forces are getting closer to the town's centre", said resident Serbest Hassan.

But no deal has been reached until now, the Observatory said. Ankara considers the YPG a terror organisation linked to its own Kurdish insurgency.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and 4,000 wounded since the government stepped up its offensive on the Eastern Ghouta on 18 February.

TAn AFP correspondent in Douma said the morning was relatively quiet in the town, allowing civilians to venture out of bomb shelters to check on the destruction in their homes or gather food. It said the humanitarian situation was "catastrophic".

The Russian military said late on Sunday that 52 civilians, including 26 children, had been evacuated from the town of Misraba, according to Reuters.

Rebel mortar and rocket fire has also rained down on the capital, killing two civilians on Monday in the Al-Kabbas neighbourhood, according to state news agency SANA.

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

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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Eastern Ghouta is larger and more populated, with some 400,000 people believed to be living there, trapped under a relentless air and ground bombardment and a crippling years-long siege.

According to a UNICEF report released in the German city of Cologne on Monday, the figure includes 86,000 people who have had to undergo amputations.

People in Eastern Ghouta say they dread a similar fate.

There was no confirmation from Russian Federation, but the United Nations said there had been talks.

The advance cut both Douma and another town from the rest of the rebel enclave.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said on Monday about 511,000 people had been killed in the Syrian war since it began seven years ago.

"I can say all the factions in the south are in a state of full readiness and alertness with all their equipment and fighting force", said Khaled al-Faraj, the commander of a rebel group operating in Quneitra province.

Mattis said that he was aware of reports of chlorine attacks on Eastern Ghouta but said that he did not have conclusive evidence that gas had been used.

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