|The News Line: Feature
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Syrian army regaining control in Ghouta
THE Syrian Arab Army has regained control over Madyra town and a number of farms near Jisreen town as part of the ongoing military operations to eradicate Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliated groups from the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside.
|Thousands of residents of Eastern Ghouta turned out to celebrate the liberation from the terrorists
SANA’s reporter in Ghouta said on Sunday that army units operating in the central sector of Ghouta took full control of Madyra town after fierce battles with terrorist organisations and continued to advance, meeting army units stationed in the vicinity of the Vehicles Directorate in Harasta. As a result of the elimination of terrorists in Madyra, army units have completely cut off supply routes and movement lines of terrorist organisations between the northern and southern parts of Ghouta, which should accelerate the defeat of terrorists in the area.
The military operations are currently concentrated on the farms of Jisreen and the village of Aftris in the southeastern sector of Ghouta, which contributes to the tightening the grip on the terrorist groups positioned in the area, in addition to restoring control over the majority of the farms in the vicinity of the town of Jisreen after defeating the terrorists and inflicting heavy losses upon them.
Army units also achieved new advances in chasing al-Nusra terrorists in the northern side of Aftris village amid a massive collapse in their ranks as a result of the great progress of the army and the heavy losses the terrorists suffered during the recent battles, the reporter added.
On Sunday a delegation from Syria’s rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor said. The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied negotiating with the Syrian government.
But on Sunday, as the government’s Russian-backed assault entered its fourth week, influential figures in one rebel-held town were considering a possible evacuation offer. A committee from Hammuriyeh met with regime representatives on Saturday, a member of the committee said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
‘The committee discussed a proposed reconciliation that would guarantee exit for those that want to leave, both civilians and rebels, from Hammuriyeh to other areas in Syria under rebel control,’ the delegate said. Civilians and fighters could be bussed to rebel-controlled parts of Daraa province in Syria’s south, or to Idlib in the northwest, held by rebels and a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Government forces would then take control of Hammuriyeh, and residents who wanted to stay on in the town would be allowed to do so. ‘The committee met on Sunday to take a decision and inform the regime. ‘If they do not agree, there would be a resumption of the military operation on Ghouta, including Hammuriyeh,’ the negotiator added.
Following weeks of bombing, it was relatively quiet in the town throughout the night and into Sunday.
In recent years, the regime has recaptured several areas around Damascus from rebels by pursuing fierce military offensives culminating in evacuation deals. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said negotiations for evacuations from multiple towns were ongoing Sunday. ‘A decision could be taken any moment for Hammuriyeh, Jisreen, and Saqba,’ said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
All three towns are controlled by Islamist rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, which has repeated denied engaging in talks with the regime. ‘There are no direct or indirect negotiations with the Russian enemy or its allies,’ said the group’s spokesman Wael Alwan late Saturday. ‘No one has been authorised to negotiate on behalf of rebels in Ghouta,’ he added.
The second main rebel group in Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, has also denied rumours it is negotiating its own withdrawal. But it has admitted engaging in talks with the United Nations and world powers on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group once linked to Al-Qaeda.
Those negotiations resulted last week in Jaish al-Islam releasing 13 HTS members it was holding. The jihadists and their relatives were then evacuated to northwest Syria on Friday. HTS, which has a small presence in parts of Ghouta, has not commented publicly on the negotiations.
Russian news agency Interfax said Sunday that the Russian Centre for Reconciliation, based alongside Russia’s air force at the Hmeimim military airport in western Syria, was facilitating negotiations with rebels in Ghouta. It did not specify which rebel factions were engaging in the talks.
‘The fighters are considering the possibility of evacuating several dozen residents in exchange for an opportunity to leave the area with their families,’ a representative of the centre, officer Vladimir Zolotukhin, told Interfax. A delegation from Syria’s rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was on Sunday considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor said.
The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied negotiating with the Syrian regime. But on Sunday, as the government’s Russian-backed assault entered its fourth week, influential figures in one rebel-held town were considering a possible evacuation offer.
A committee from Hammuriyeh met with regime representatives on Saturday, a member of the committee said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘The committee discussed a proposed reconciliation that would guarantee exit for those that want to leave, both civilians and rebels, from Hammuriyeh to other areas in Syria under rebel control,’ the delegate said.
Civilians and fighters could be bussed to rebel-controlled parts of Daraa province in Syria’s south, or to Idlib in the northwest, held by rebels and a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Government forces would then take control of Hammuriyeh, and residents who wanted to stay on in the town would be allowed to do so.
• Syrian Kurds in the country’s northwestern Afrin region have accused Turkey of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the residents of the enclave as Turkish forces intensify their military aggression against the region. Funerals of the war victims are now a daily occurrence in Afrin, with residents burying the bodies of civilians, including children, and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces in a sparsely populated farmland on the outskirts of Afrin city.
The morgue of Afrin’s main hospital is filled with bodies, and many patients are being treated for extensive injuries caused by shelling and airstrikes, the report says. On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to expand the offensive to key YPG-controlled border towns right up to the Iraqi frontier.
‘Once we have purged the terrorists (from Afrin) we will then cleanse them from Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ra’s al-Ayn and Qamishli,’ he said in televised comments. The town of Manbij, east of Afrin, is considered a key flashpoint in any future conflict due to the US military presence in the area.
Meanwhile, Turkish forces have reached the outskirts of the city of Afrin, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. The UK-based monitoring group added that Turkey and allied Syrian militant groups it supports were advancing on Afrin from the east under intense bombardment.
Turkey has been waging ‘Operation Olive Branch’ against Syria’s Afrin region since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG, which forms the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that enjoys US support. The Turkish government views the YPG as a terror organisation and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group. The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
According to Syria’s official news agency SANA, some 222 civilians, most of whom women and children, have been killed and 700 others injured in the 50 days of Turkish shelling and airstrikes.
According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over one million civilians face an ‘unknown fate’ as Turkey is laying siege to the region.
Turkish forces took over the town of Jindires in southern Afrin on Thursday, removing a major obstacle on the road to Afrin’s largest urban centre. The pro-Syrian government forces entered Afrin late February to repel Turkey’s offensive. This is the first time that Syrian government forces have been deployed in the region since 2012 when the YPG held the area under its control.
In the absence of Syrian air cover, the YPG is defenceless against Turkish airstrikes, which pave the way for ground forces to advance. The Syrian government has already condemned the ‘brutal Turkish aggression’ against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.
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