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Syrian army forces keep advancing in Eastern Ghouta, seize back another village

MIDEAST-CRISIS  SYRIA

Syrian and allied forces have retaken half of the territory rebels held in Eastern Ghouta since they launched a blistering offensive in mid-February, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 68 people were killed Monday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that the chemical attacks allegations against the Syrian government are part of the Western "dictionary of lies", state news agency SANA reported.

In his annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the government's actions in the area were "legally and morally unsustainable", while warning the next nightmare for Syrian civilians would inevitably arrive soon.

The criticism came hours after the UN Security Council failed to agree on a new draft resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta to allow aid to get into the civilian population stuck there. "We are at least able to deliver some aid but other trucks were not fully or partially offloaded with colleagues telling us that people were tearful and angry as they were expecting the aid to get delivered", he said.

But anti-government groups holding out in eastern Ghouta say they will not be swayed by psychological tactics.

Monday's convoy marks the first time an aid delivery is allowed into eastern Ghouta in almost three weeks.

Defeat in Eastern Ghouta would mark the biggest setback for the anti-Assad rebellion since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing, ground assaults and the promise of safe passage out.

The Syrian government had stripped Monday's convoy of much of its medical supplies, including surgical kits, insulin and dialysis equipment, United Nations officials said.

The Russian Defence Ministry said Tuesday's crash of the An-26 military cargo plane occurred just 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the runway of Syria's Hemeimeem military base. Western powers, however, blame the Syrian government and Russian Federation for the crisis. (Photo by AFP) "We have received instructions from the army command to lift the siege off our people in Eastern Ghouta".

She spoke from Damascus to The Associated Press as a 46-truck convoy was entering the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta, marking the first delivery of humanitarian assistance to the area in almost three weeks.

The Damascus suburb has been under rebel control since mid-2013.

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, says nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening.

Turkey views the main Kurdish militia in Afrin as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.