Syrian troops continue advance on eastern Ghouta

Militants impose curfew in Syria's Ghouta: Russia

The fighting since 18 February has left more than 600 people dead, many of them children.

Speaking to a small group of reporters in Damascus, Assad said the five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" in eastern Ghouta would continue, to allow for any civilians wishing to leave the area to do so.

Moscow helped turn the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.

At least 21 civilians were killed by Bashar al-Assad regime forces in besieged Eastern Ghouta region on Saturday, Syrian Civil Defense sources said.

Russian Federation stalled a United Nations vote on a ceasefire February 23 that would have given a reprieve to citizens of eastern Ghouta, which has been under siege in the ongoing civil war since 2013.

The main rebel units actively holding territory in Eastern Ghouta are the Islamist Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al Rahman, which have taken part in peace negotiations in the past. Damascus and Moscow say they are trying to clear the area of "terrorists".

Hamza Bayraqdar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, said on Twitter that the group's forces had launched "surprise attacks" against government positions. The Observatory also reported that 12 soldiers were killed in a counterattack of the rebels, during the night.

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Neemat Mohsen, who heads the local women's office in Saqba, another town in Eastern Ghouta, said in some shelters 350 or more people live with no running water and no electricity.

Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday his forces must push on with their campaign to retake the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta from rebels, despite mounting worldwide calls to end the bloodshed.

In recent weeks, more than 500 civilians were killed by shelling.

Under siege since 2013, they had already been facing severe shortages of food and medicine. The region's over-burdened medical workers have been struggling to cope with the rising number of wounded.

The government is pressing on despite Western calls for it to abide by a 30-day, countrywide ceasefire demanded by the U.N. Security Council.

Earlier, a United Nations official in Syria told Reuters a humanitarian convoy carrying life-saving supplies would not enter eastern Ghouta as had been planned on Sunday, citing a lack of permission.

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At least 76 pro-regime fighters and 43 rebels from Jaish al-Islam have also been killed in clashes since Feb 25, it said.

Macron's office said in a statement that he and Guterres spoke Saturday and expressed their "grave concern" and called for a full implementation of the resolution.

The UN said it had received approval to deliver assistance for 70,000 people in need in Douma, adding that assurances were made that the remaining supplies for all approved people in need will be delivered on March 8.

Russian Federation and Iran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial support throughout the seven-year civil war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on peaceful protests.

The UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Mr Panos Moumtzis, sounded the alarm on Sunday over the increase in violence.

"Instead of a much needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed", Moumtzis said in a statement Sunday.

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