A Syrian commander reportedly says pro-government forces are advancing methodically against militants in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, which anti-Damascus militants have been using to launch attacks on civilians in the Syrian capital.
The commander told Reuters on Friday that government troops had retaken some villages on Eastern Ghouta’s Maraj area and made “notable” advances on the western edge of the Harasta area.
He said the forces were moving one neighborhood or village at a time.
An elite government unit known as the Tiger Force is involved in the Eastern Ghouta operations.
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the pro-Damascus forces had recaptured a number of buildings in Harasta. The UK-based monitoring group also said that the Syrian forces had wrested control of the Eastren Ghouta villages of Hawsh al-Dawahra and Hawsh Zreika in addition to hills and farmland.
From inside Eastern Ghouta, foreign-backed militants have been launching indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks on the capital, which have resulted in the death of a number of civilians.
But there are civilians in Eastern Ghouta, too, and the government has had to navigate with care. Russia, which is giving Syria advisory military help, has established humanitarian corridors to allow the civilians out.
Syria’s official SANA news agency reported on Friday that the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist outfits were preventing civilians from leaving Eastern Ghouta through the safe corridors.
Additionally, a Syrian military source told SANA that the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western states had even given terrorist groups instructions to stage a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta and pin the blame on the government.
Western countries have said they would attack Syrian government positions if it conducts chemical attacks, and false flag operations could be mounted to incriminate the Syrian government and trigger international military intervention.
This is while Syria, beginning in 2013, gradually gave up its entire chemical arsenal under a deal that included Russia and the US.
That deal was implemented by international experts, who monitored the shipping of Syria’s chemical weapons out of the country and the destruction of any facility used to store or manufacture such arms.