Published: Sun, April 08, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Syrian forces press ahead with offensive in rebel-held Douma

Syrian forces press ahead with offensive in rebel-held Douma

Air strikes on Syria's rebel-controlled Douma killed eight civilians on Saturday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as government forces resumed a military blitz of the town.

The Syrian forces have entered the farmlands on the outskirts of Douma, said SANA, adding that four people were killed by rebels' mortar attack on Damascus on Friday.

The resumed assault comes after the apparent failure of negotiations between Jaish al-Islam and regime backer Russian Federation over a rebel withdrawal from Douma.

The Syrian government unleashed a ferocious assault on the then-rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta on February 18, aiming to crush Islamist and jihadist groups on the doorstep of the capital.

Government forces had resumed a military blitz of Douma on Friday after an apparent breakdown in negotiations between government backer Moscow and Jaish al-Islam, the rebels who hold the town.

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Syria and Russian Federation had threatened a resumption of their brutal assault if Jaish al-Islam did not agree to the deal.

Six civilians were also killed and dozens more wounded as Douma rebels shelled the capital Damascus on Saturday, Syrian state media said.

"The regime is trying to tighten the noose around Douma from the west, east, and south", said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"These air strikes are paving the way for a ground operation".

SANA blamed the suspension of the evacuation on the inner conflict among Islam Army rebels.

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Jaish al-Islam said its rocket and artillery brigade were responding to what it described as a massacre by "the Assad militias and their ally the Russian warplanes".

Jaish al-Islam denied targeting residential areas.

"Intensive care is crowded", said a medical worker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from both government and rebel forces.Victory in the enclave would effectively spell an end to the war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the opposition that rose up to oppose them in 2011.

Moscow announced a deal with Jaish al-Islam last Sunday, ushering in three consecutive days of evacuations from Douma that saw almost 3,000 fighters and civilians bussed to northern Syria. "We do not want to close a door that could lead to sparing the blood of civilians", he said in an interview with al-Hadath TV.

"We are negotiating to remain, for our people to remain. and for that which protects them to remain", he said.

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Several thousand people left Douma in recent days, taken by bus to the rebel-held northern town of Jarablus, which is next to the Turkish border.

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