World 'Chlorine attack' on Syrian rebel enclave

18:20  13 january  2018
18:20  13 january  2018 Source:   BBC News

Turkey says Syria offensive 'de facto' underway

  Turkey says Syria offensive 'de facto' underway Turkey's defense minister said Friday there is no turning back from his country's decision to launch a ground assault on a Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwest Syria, saying the offensive had "de facto" started with the sporadic Turkish military shelling of the area. Nurettin Canikli told Turkey's A Haber television in an interview that the Syrian Kurdish fighters in the enclave of Afrin and other Kurdish-controlled territories pose a "real" and ever increasing threat to Turkey.

BEIRUT: Syria ’s rebel -held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital is the regime’s Achilles heel, and because of this it faces an almost inevitable military offensive, experts say. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the enclave is the regime’s “weak spot.”

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army backed by Russian jets on Wednesday stepped up shelling and air strikes on a besieged rebel -held enclave in Damascus a day after rebels stormed an army base in the area, rebels , a war monitor and residents said.

A man is seen near rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the Eastern Ghouta town of Misraba, Syria, January 4, 2018.: Eastern Ghouta is under constant aerial bombardment (file picture) © Reuters Eastern Ghouta is under constant aerial bombardment (file picture)

Reports from a rebel-held area on the outskirts of Syria's capital, Damascus, say pro-government forces have carried out a chlorine gas attack.

People in the Eastern Ghouta region, which is under daily bombardment, reported a smell of gas after a missile strike.

Health workers said six people were treated for minor breathing problems.

Some 400,000 locals have been besieged by Russian-backed government forces since 2013.

There have been a number of reports of chlorine gas attacks since Syria's civil war broke out, but the government has always denied using chemical agents.

Syria rebel enclave is Assad regime's weak spot

  Syria rebel enclave is Assad regime's weak spot Syria's rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital is the regime's Achilles heel, and because of this it faces an almost inevitable military offensive, experts say. The battle-scarred region east of Damascus, which has been under near-daily bombardment and a crippling government siege since 2013, is strategically vital to President Bashar al-Assad.Despite residents facing a humanitarian crisis, rebels controlling the region have been able to use it as a launch pad for rocket and mortar attacks on the capital.

Its bases are in al-Rastan, Talbiseh, and other cities in the rebel enclave between Hama and Homs in western Syria , an area encircled by the Russian-backed Syrian army—and a main target of Russian bombing and cruise-missile attacks that kicked off in late September.

BEIRUT — Syria 's rebel -held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital is the regime's Achilles heel, and because of this it faces an almost inevitable military offensive, experts say. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the enclave is the regime's "weak spot".

On 10 January the UN's high commissioner for human rights said an upsurge in air strikes and ground attacks had killed at least 85 civilians in Eastern Ghouta since 31 December.

"In Eastern Ghouta, where a crippling siege has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, residential areas are being hit day and night by strikes from the ground and from the air, forcing civilians to hide in basements," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement.

Eastern Ghouta is strategically important, as rebels based there are able to fire rockets into residential neighbourhoods of Damascus. This has also caused civilian deaths, according to state media.

Yusuf Ibrahim, a teacher who now lives underground in the rebel-held town of Harasta, just outside Eastern Ghouta, described the situation there.

Syria: Tens of thousands flee as regime strikes Idlib

  Syria: Tens of thousands flee as regime strikes Idlib The number of civilians fleeing northern Syria is likely in the tens of thousands, UN officials say, as the government steps up its offensive on rebel-held areas.The Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has resumed airstrikes on rebel-held areas, such as Idlib province, where medical organizations say several hospitals and medical facilities have been hit over the past two weeks.

Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal 21 sarin nerve gas attack that killed hundreds. Washington blamed the government of Assad for the attack , while the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, blamed anti-government rebels for the attack .

The Syrian army backed by Russian jets on Wednesday stepped up shelling and air strikes on a besieged rebel -held enclave in Damascus a day after rebels stormed. * Aerial strikes escalate after rebel attack on base * Eastern Ghouta's plight worsens as siege tightens.

"Today is not so difficult as it was yesterday because there is no warplanes or any raids till now, just heavy artillery bombardments ... like surface-to-surface rockets, which are targeting the buildings and the population in Harasta," he told the BBC.

"The inhabitants of the city are all underground, living in the basement or the cellars because of such heavy bombardment.

"There is no means of life such as markets or good services."

Last week, aid workers said at least 10 hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria had suffered direct air or artillery attacks within a 10-day period.

An adviser to a coalition of medical charities told the BBC the attacks had been the most intense for a year.

  • Why is there a war in Syria?
  • Syria hospitals 'targeted by attacks'
  • 'Critical point' in Syria's Eastern Ghouta
Map showing proposed de-escalation zones in Syria © BBC Map showing proposed de-escalation zones in Syria

Food shortages have led to many cases of severe malnutrition, and a UN report in November said some residents in Eastern Ghouta had been reduced to eating animal fodder and even rubbish.

Several are reported to have died of starvation.

Eastern Ghouta is one of several "de-escalation" zones in Syria announced by Russia, Iran and Turkey in 2017.

Despite that, the area has remained under bombardment. Troops and allied militia have also shut many of the routes used to smuggle in food and medicine, leaving residents dependent on irregular aid deliveries.

Russia and Syria's Latest Plan Is Killing More Civilians .
A year after winning Aleppo, the Syrian military and its Russian ally launched a devastating offensive against the last rebel province of Idlib.Related: Russia defends Syria bases from wave of drones supplied by foreign country, Defense Ministry says

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