United States warns Syria regime not to use poisonous gas

UN says 2017 deadliest year for children in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russian Federation see the rebels as terrorist groups, and say their offensive is needed to end the rebels' rule over eastern Ghouta's large population.

At least eight raids struck the rebel-held towns of Busr al-Harir, Hrak, al-Gharaiya al-Gharbiya and al-Sowara in rural areas in eastern Deraa province in southern Syria, two rebel officials told Reuters.

Hundreds of people have been killed in a ferocious air and artillery bombardment of the eastern Ghouta district since February 18 as the Syrian government seeks to crush the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.

The town's opposition-controlled authorities said on Monday the situation there had become "catastrophic", with no more room below ground for civilians to hide.

Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad denied opposition charges that government forces used poisonous gas in their attacks on some suburbs of Damascus.

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.

About 85 percent of the dead were civilians killed by the forces of the Syrian government and its allies, the Observatory said.

Recapturing the enclave would mark one of the most significant victories for President Bashar Assad in the seven-year civil war.

Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained the target of a crippling siege by the Syrian regime - of which Russian Federation is a major ally - for the last five years. The expulsion of the rebels from eastern Ghouta would represent their biggest defeat since they lost their enclave in Aleppo in December 2016.

Syrian government forces have taken farmland and marched into towns, squeezing the pocket in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.

People in Eastern Ghouta say they dread a similar fate.

Jaysh al-Islam said the evacuations would take place in stages, but it did not say when they would begin.

More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, are in urgent need of medical evacuations from the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the United Nations said on Monday.

The advance cut both Douma and another town from the rest of the rebel enclave.

The hardline Islamist groups include the Islamic State group and a former Al-Qaeda affiliate. Noting that since the resolution was passed there have been three allegations of chlorine gas attacks during a stepped up military campaign against rebels, Haley told the council: "This is no cease-fire".

France's President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said his country was prepared to launch targeted strikes against sites in Syria used to deploy chemical attacks on civilians.

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