Syrian youth prepare bread as they take shelter inside a building in Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 27, 2018. (AFP / ABDULMONAM EASSA)
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Syrian government forces launched a ground assault on the edge of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave Wednesday, seeking to gain territory despite a Russian plan for five-hour daily ceasefires, a war monitor and sources on both sides said.Rebels deny this, and say people will not leave eastern Ghouta because they fear the government.It said rebels had inflicted heavy losses on government forces.An official with one of the rebel groups in eastern Ghouta said fighters were battling to repel an attempted incursion, and characterised the battle as "back and forth". Damascus appears to be applying tried and tested military means, combining air strikes and bombardment with ground assaults, as it did to win back eastern Aleppo in 2016 .More recently, the United States says it has evidence Syrian forces have used chlorine, which is permitted for civilian purposes but banned as a weapon, in attacks in eastern Ghouta and elsewhere.Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 earlier this month as it returned from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.
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