United States condemns Russia, Iran-backed offensive in Syria

United States condemns Russia, Iran-backed offensive in Syria

Eastern Ghouta has been rebel held virtually throughout the war, with Syrian forces having negotiated evacuation deals with some rebels along the outskirts past year, and now looking to clear the rest of it of rebel fighters.

"Russia has gone on to ignore [the United Nations ceasefire's] terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations", said a statement from the White House.

Nearly 600 people are believed to have been killed and over 2,000 injured, since Syrian government forces launched an air and ground offensive on the rebel-held enclave on February 18, according to the statement.

The Syrian regime has taken control of several villages in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, official news agency SANA said Sunday, in a major turning point in a two-week offensive.

Syria's military claimed about 25 percent of the Damascus suburb, monitors for the United Kingdom -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

He said he supported a Russian-sponsored daily truce of five hours, to allow "the majority of those in Eastern Ghouta" to escape the areas under the control of "terrorists".

The convoy of some 40 trucks had been due to go to Douma in the government-besieged enclave near Damascus, where some 400,000 people need food, medical and other supplies, the United Nations says.

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French President Emmanuel Macron made a separate phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging him to exert "necessary pressure" on Syria to halt "indiscriminate" attacks on civilians in Eastern Ghouta.

With the war entering its eighth year, capturing the eastern Ghouta area would be a major victory for Assad, who has steadily recovered control of rebellious areas with military support from Russian Federation and Iran.

Syria's regime has seized control of over a quarter of Eastern Ghouta, on the edges of the capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday.

A wider, full ceasefire backed by the U.N. Security Council has not come into effect during the campaign, which began with massive government air strikes two weeks ago and has continued in recent days with a ground assault.

Russian Federation has accused the rebels of preventing civilians from leaving, which insurgents have denied.

In a statement released Sunday, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it hoped to deliver aid to parts of the area on Monday. "There are about three and a bit kilometres (to go) and they will cut (eastern Ghouta) in two", the commander said.