Bodies pile up in Ghouta | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 12, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:31 AM, March 12, 2018


Bodies pile up in Ghouta

Regime forces bomb splintered enclave as delegation of rebel groups mulls evacuation deal; death toll tops 1,102

New air strikes and barrel bombs pounded Syria's Eastern Ghouta yesterday as government forces pressed a three-week advance that splintered the rebel enclave and trapped dozens under collapsed buildings.

Defying global calls for a ceasefire, Syria's government has pursued a ferocious Russian-backed air campaign and ground offensive to capture the region, the last rebel bastion on the capital's doorstep.

In three weeks of fighting, it has overrun more than half the area and split the remainder into three pockets, isolating the urban hub of Douma from the rest of the enclave.

Yesterday, government troops battered the edges of each pocket with air raids, barrel bombs, and rockets, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The clashes are focused now around the town of Medeira, which lies at the centre of the three zones and where rebels are putting up fierce resistance," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Bombing runs hit several other towns including Arbin, where at least three civilians were killed.

The deaths bring the total toll from the offensive to at least 1,102 civilians, according to the monitor.

They include dozens of decomposing bodies still trapped under pulverised residential blocks in the towns of Hammuriyeh, Saqba, and Misraba.

In Hammuriyeh, AFP's correspondent saw a young man scrambling frantically over the rubble of a collapsed building in search of his loved ones.

His father, mother, and three siblings were killed in an air raid, but rescue workers have been unable to pull them out.

A delegation from Eastern Ghouta was yesterday considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor told AFP.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said it would be "very unwise" for the Syrian regime to use gas as a weapon against the people of Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere.

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