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>> The Syrian army advanced on Saturday into Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus. That's according to a war monitor and Syrian state media, who said the army had managed to splinter the besieged enclave. Syrian state television broadcast footage from inside Misraba. Capture of that town and surrounding farmland brings important roads under Syrian army fire, effectively cutting the large rebel-held towns of Harasta and Douma off from each other.
That's according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in Eastern Ghouta, said rebels had repelled the Misraba attack. Eastern Ghouta has been besieged since 2013. But a relentless assault over the three few weeks has seen the Syrian army capture half of the territory.
And it's estimated to have killed nearly 1,000 people. The intensity of the assault has drawn international condemnation and demands by UN agencies for a humanitarian halt in the fighting.
ey've only been able to get a fraction of much needed food and medical supplies into the area, where an estimated 400,000 people are trapped.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main ally Russia said the campaign in Eastern Ghouta is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and the rule of Islamists insurgents over the area's civilians. Capturing the enclave would be the latest in a string of victories for the Syrian regime since Russian jets entered the fray three years ago.
And it would be the biggest blow against rebels since they were driven from Aleppo in December 2016.