Syrian assault has retaken half of Ghouta enclave: monitor


Beirut (AFP)

Syrian and allied forces have retaken half of the territory rebels held in Eastern Ghouta since they launched a blistering offensive in mid-February, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

"Regime forces control more than 50 percent of Ghouta," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring organisation.

The symbolic mark was reached "after forces retook Al-Ashaari and Beit Sawa towns as well as farmland in the centre and north of Eastern Ghouta," he told AFP.

After attacking mostly from the air -- in a campaign that involved Russian warplanes and saw Syria aircraft using barrel bombs -- pro-government forces launched a ground offensive.

They have moved rapidly from the east, taking mostly farmland and punching westward down the middle of the enclave in a bid to split it in two.

Regime forces have yet to take on the two main towns of Douma and Hammuriyeh or any of the most populated areas of the enclave on the capital Damascus' outskirts.

Syrian troops and allied militia fighters supporting the operation have faced limited resistance so far from the Islamist and jihadist groups who had been controlling Eastern Ghouta.