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Syria: Assad visits troops in eastern Ghouta

March 18, 2018

Assad visited army positions in newly captured areas in eastern Ghouta. Government forces have retaken more than 80 percent of the former rebel bastion since launching a major air and ground offensive in February.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is surrounded by Syrian soldiers during his visit to the eastern Ghouta area
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/Syrian Presidency

Syrian President Bashar Assad visited army positions in eastern Ghouta, an enclave outside capital Damascus that rebels have held since 2012.

State television beamed photos of the president standing near a tank surrounded by soldiers in an unspecified part of the enclave.

Syrian forces have retaken more than 80 percent of the former rebel-held territory since launching a major offensive in February, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Read more: Syria: Al-Qaida and IS increasingly lose territory to Assad

Eastern Ghouta - Life in Hell

Eastern Ghouta offensive: Latest developments

  • Earlier, state media reported that government soldiers had entered Saqba, a town in a southern pocket of eastern Ghouta, the latest town to be recaptured in the monthlong offensive.
  • Thousands of civilians continued to stream out of the besieged zone for a fourth day. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 50,000 civilians had left the southern pocket in the past 72 hours.
  • The main rebel group in the southern pocket said on Sunday it was negotiating with the United Nations to arrange for a cease-fire and ensure the evacuation of wounded and ill civilians.
  • Nearly 1,400 people have died in eastern Ghouta since the offensive began in mid-February. The UN estimates that up to 400,000 people remain trapped in the enclave.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta?

Syrian civil war: The conflict in Syria entered its eighth year this week. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since the war began in 2011. The war has put global superpowers, including the US and Russia, on different sides of the conflict.

Read more: Opinion: The twisted logic of the war in Syria

ap/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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