Syria Forces Launch Assault On Rebel-Held Douma

Syrians walk past destroyed buildings in Douma in Eastern Ghouta

Although a number of rebel strongholds remain, none are as strategically important as Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located.More than 130,000 people have fled the once-besieged enclave in recent weeks, according to the United Nations, a lot of them to government-run reception centers in Damascus.

The offensive to reclaim Douma, the last pocket of resistance in the suburbs surrounding Damascus, also followed talks between Turkey, Russia and Iran, on Syria. "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.

The monitor told AFP it could not specify the reason for the symptoms, but the White Helmets rescue forces said Douma had been hit with toxic gas.

The nature of the ongoing discussions over Douma is unclear and Jaish al-Islam itself has not stated its position since this week's first evacuation.

Jaish al-Islam, the last remaining rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, denies the accusation.

Assad's forces have retaken 95 p.c of Jap Ghouta since launching a blistering air and ground assault on the besieged enclave on February 18, killing 1,600 civilians and displacing tens of 1000's further.

Douma-based activist Haitham Bakkar said clashes between Syrian troops and the Army of Islam rebel group are taking place on two main fronts in the town.

The Observatory said the Army of Islam is trying to negotiate a new deal with the Russians and the Syrian government that could allow some fighters to hand over their weapons and remain in the town.

Evacuations from the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus were suspended for the second day Friday, days after hundreds of opposition fighters and their relatives left for areas of the country's north as part of a surrender deal following the eastern Ghouta offensive.

Army of Islam official Ammar al-Hassan told The Associated Press that he has no information on whether the truce collapsed.

A steady trickle of buses had been carrying residents from Douma for nearly a week, apparently under the terms of an agreement struck between Jaish al-Islam and Russian Federation. "We've been waiting for this for years, whether in Ghouta or in Damascus", said Abbas.

Ibrahim Kalin said, "The Russians and the Iranians have a full understanding of this", adding that the Syrian regime also understands that "Turkish soldiers are not to be attacked in those areas". A spokesman for his office, however, said an operation against Tel Rifat might not be needed. At least 36 were killed, and 40 according to some reports, as airstrikes and ground forces advanced on the city.

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