Syrian Observatory says war has killed more than half a million


"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.

Turkey has been battling the YPG in Afrin since January 20.

Since 18 February Syrian troops have been waging a fierce offensive on rebels in Eastern Ghouta, the last opposition bastion on the outskirts of Damascus.

Thousands of families are sleeping in the open in the streets of the biggest town of Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave, where there is no longer any room in packed cellars to shelter from regime bombardment, local authorities said. Ankara considers the YPG a terror organization linked to its own Kurdish insurgency.

Syrian forces pounded two rebel towns in Eastern Ghouta with air strikes, pressing on with a Russia-backed offensive that has so far allowed government fighters to retake left almost 60 percent of the enclave. A statement issued by Free Syrian Army factions there late on Saturday said they had taken a decision not to accept a surrender and negotiated withdrawal. It said the humanitarian situation was "catastrophic".

Backed by Russian Federation, the advance has battered Eastern Ghouta with air strikes, artillery and rocket fire, raising widespread worldwide concern and prompting urgent calls for a ceasefire.

"Russia was the framework guarantor that (Syrian President Bashar al Assad) would get rid of all of it".

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.

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Eastern Ghouta, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been under regime siege ever since 2013.

A military media unit run by the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government, said the army had also entirely surrounded the town of Douma. Douma is eastern Ghouta's largest settlement.

"The city of Douma, under the control of Jaysh al-Islam, is now witnessing Russian-brokered talks aimed at encouraging rebels evacuate to other parts of Syria (either Daraa or northern Aleppo) and organizing the release of hostages among which there are captured Syrian troops and civilians", the news agency says.

More than 19,800 children are among the dead, it said.

Jaysh al-Islam said the evacuations would take place in stages, but it did not say when they would begin.

Damascus says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

His comments come amid numerous reports that government forces have targeted the besieged Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus with chlorine gas on several occasions since the start of an offensive on the region three weeks ago.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, says more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in eastern Ghouta. There were no reports of casualties.