Smoke billows following Syrian government bombardment on Kafr Batna, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 10, 2018. (AFP photo)
DAMASCUS, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian government forces have controlled 60 percent of the rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus after 13 days of battles, a monitor group reported on Monday.
This comes as intense battles have been raging since midnight between the rebels and the government forces mainly near the city of Harasta and the Arbeen area in Eastern Ghouta, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It added that the Syrian forces with the backing of the Russians managed to completely isolate Harasta in the western part of Eastern Ghouta.
The government forces also isolated the key rebel bastion in Douma district, where the Islam Army, the major rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, is positioned.
The situation in Eastern Ghouta has flared up since late last month as a result of a wide-scale military operation in that area. The Syrian army has been fighting there to dislodge the al-Qaida-linked groups from that area.
A day earlier, the Syrian army split Eastern Ghouta into three parts after advancing in the battles there, tightening the siege on Douma in the north, the city of Harasta in the west and other towns and villages south of Eastern Ghouta.
Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge.
Four major rebel groups are currently positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.
The UN humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm about the worsening humanitarian situation for 400,000 people in that region, where activists said over 1,000 people have been killed since late last month by the heavy bombardment and military showdown in areas of Eastern Ghouta.