Syria army cuts off main town in Ghouta assault

BEIRUT: Syrian forces on Saturday cut off the largest town in Eastern Ghouta from the rest of the opposition enclave in a blow to beleaguered rebels defending their last bastion near Damascus.
Government troops and allied militia have recaptured half of the besieged region in a blistering assault launched on February 18 that has left nearly 1,000 civilians dead and prompted global outcry.
They have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy, eating away at rebel-held towns and successfully isolating Ghouta’s main town of Douma on Saturday.
Syrian fighters seized control of the road linking Douma with the town of Harasta further west, and also captured the town of Misraba, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Syrian forces have therefore divided Eastern Ghouta into three parts — Douma and its surroundings, Harasta in the west, and the rest of the towns further south,” the Britain-based monitor said.
Shelling and air strikes slammed into Douma on Saturday, trapping residents inside cellars transformed into makeshift bomb shelters.
Rescue workers and medics were struggling to navigate the town’s rubble-littered roads to bring wounded residents back to
field clinics.