Death toll tops 1000 in assault on Syria's Ghouta: Monitor

Syria war: Jaish al-Islam to evacuate n of Eastern Ghouta fighters

But Reuters reported a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, denied that it had fallen into government hands.

The report from the UK-based human rights group, which said both Douma and the smaller nearby town of Harasta were surrounded and cut off, was disputed by locals, but such an outcome seems inevitable in any event as the regime presses its advantage, backed by both Syrian and Russian airstrikes. It has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

The postponement came as Syrian government forces intensified their offensive on the area, known as eastern Ghouta, under the cover of airstrikes.

Syrian state television aired footage of a single bus carrying 13 "fighters" and family members out of the enclave through Al-Wafideen checkpoint, without giving their affiliation. An estimated 400,000 people in the region have largely been cut off from humanitarian aid, and activists have warned that the situation has become dire, with food and medical supplies quickly running out.

The terror of the bombardment and the increasingly unbearable living conditions may push people to courageous the fighting and flee, according to one resident of Douma. "Shop owners and traders are sending their workers to the shelters to sell food for three times their price before the offensive", said a man in Saqba who identified himself as Abu Abdo in a voice message.

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Aid agencies have tried to deliver aid into eastern Ghouta, but they have only been able to bring in a portion of the amount they wanted.

Moscow had justified the continued bombardment of the area by saying extremists remained embedded in the towns and were preventing civilians from taking advantage of a designated evacuation corridor to flee the fighting.

Almost half of the food aid could not be delivered while the United Nations said Syrian authorities removed some medical and health supplies from the trucks. Observers say despite the continuing increase in civilian fatalities, there is little prospect that fighting in eastern Ghouta will ease.

Fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group made up mostly of al-Qaeda's ex-affiliate al-Nusra Front, are to be evacuated to the northern province of Idlib, Jaish al-Islam said in a statement published on Twitter.

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