Advancing Syrian troops pile pressure on rebels in Ghouta


BEIRUT

Syrian troops captured a major rebel stronghold east of the capital Damascus on Saturday and took large parts of another, squeezing insurgents and forcing thousands to flee to regions controlled by the government.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Oways al-Shami of the Syrian Civil Defense said troops have taken Kafr Batna and large parts of nearby Saqba.

The capture of Kafr Batna and parts of nearby Saqba is another blow to opposition fighters who have lost more than 70 percent of the area known as eastern Ghouta since the President Bashar Assad’s forces began a crushing offensive under the cover of airstrikes Feb. 18. The violence left nearly 1,400 people dead, more than 5,000 wounded and forced tens of thousands to seek shelter in areas under government control.

The intensity of the shelling and airstrikes have made it almost impossible for ambulances to move and wounded people cannot reach clinics, said Hamza Hassan, a surgeon working at one of the hospitals in eastern Ghouta.

Associated Press

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