BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army intensified its onslaught in eastern Ghouta on Saturday with advances that a war monitor and state media said had splintered the enclave, though a rebel official denied this.
Syrian state television broadcast from inside the town of Mesraba, a town lying along the road connecting the northern and southern halves of the rebel-held enclave, after reporting that the army had taken it earlier on Saturday.
The capture of Mesraba and advances into nearby farmland brought important roads directly under fire by the army, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
That has in effect cut the large towns of Harasta and Douma off from each other and the rest of the enclave, it added.
However Hamza Birqadar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, said rebels had repelled the attack on Mesraba and neither Harasta nor Douma were cut off.
The relentless three-week assault on the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus has captured about half its area and killed 976 people, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
State television showed a massive plume of dark smoke rising behind houses and trees in eastern Ghouta, with the sound of blasts in the background. Live
Article source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-ghouta/syrian-army-gains-ground-in-intensified-ghouta-assault-idUSKBN1GM090
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