By Adham Kako and Mohamad Misto
EASTERN GHOUTA/ANKARA (AA) – The Assad regime and its allies have laid siege to Eastern Ghouta’s Haresta neighborhood, cutting the district into three distinct parts, Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground reported Monday.
Despite a recent UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria, the regime and its allies on March 3 began a major ground operation — backed by Russian air power — aimed at decisively capturing Eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held suburb of Damascus.
Last week, regime forces managed to seize Eastern Ghouta’s strategic Misraba and Medyere neighborhoods, effectively cutting the district in two.
– Ongoing attacks
According to the White Helmets civil-defense agency, the regime and its allies have also stepped up attacks — both by land and by air — on Eastern Ghouta’s Saqba, Cisrin and Zamalka neighborhoods.
At least 35 district residents were killed on Sunday, bringing the total civilian death toll in Eastern Ghouta since Feb. 19 to 944.
On Feb. 24, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401, which calls for a month-long cease-fire in Syria — especially Eastern Ghouta — to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Three days later, Russia announced its own cease-fire initiative calling for daily, five-hour “humanitarian pauses” in the opposition-held district.
Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta has remained the target of a crippling regime siege for the last five years.
The regime has stepped up its siege in recent months, preventing the delivery of badly-needed humanitarian aid and leaving thousands of residents in need of medical treatment.
Last week, a UN commission of inquiry released a report accusing the Assad regime of committing war crimes in Eastern Ghouta, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians, causing mass starvation and forcibly preventing medical evacuations.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.