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Syria war: United Nations aid convoy re-enters Eastern Ghouta amid 'calm'

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Syria war: United Nations aid convoy re-enters Eastern Ghouta amid 'calm'

Relief workers used a brief lull in Damascus' embattled rebel-held suburbs to deliver aid left over from a mission earlier in the week but were interrupted by renewed violence shorty after their team entered eastern Ghouta on Friday.

The ICRC said a convoy of 13 trucks, including food parcels for 12,000 people, has entered the town of Douma. The bombing soon resumed.

The UN humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm about the worsening humanitarian situation in that region, where activists said over 800 people have been killed since late last month by the heavy bombardment and military showdown in areas of Eastern Ghouta. "But then air strikes began again, and there are still people under the rubble that we couldn't get out", said Moayad al-Hafi, a man in the town of Saqba.

In less than two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken almost all the farmland in eastern Ghouta under cover of near ceaseless shelling and air strikes, leaving only a dense sprawl of towns - about half the enclave - still under insurgent control.

In addition to the dead, medical facilities supported by the humanitarian organization received an average of 344 wounded people every day in Eastern Ghouta in the same time period, said Jonathan Whittal, MSF's director of the analysis department.

More than 940 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed government forces launched an assault on the last opposition bastion near Damascus on February 18.

"The numbers alone speak volumes". "Daily, we hear an increasing sense of hopelessness and despair, as our medical colleagues reach the limits of what a person can be expected to do".

A United Nations official who entered eastern Ghouta earlier this week said civilians stuck inside the enclave - mostly women and children - would like to leave have nowhere to go and feel they can't exit safely from the designated checkpoints.

A Douma resident, in a voice message over which the sounds of loud explosions were audible, said four jets were in the sky and residential areas had come under air attack.

While ICRC officials expect this latest convoy to successfully deliver its cargo, humanitarian organisations say it is not almost enough aid for the estimated 400,000 people trapped in the area.

Humanitarian workers said shelling broke out as they delivered aid on Monday and they had to leave before completing the delivery.

There was no confirmation by any of the rebel groups based in Eastern Ghouta of negotiations to leave the area.

The militants are still preventing the civilians from leaving the besieged areas, opening fire on people trying to flee through the humanitarian corridors and shelling residential areas of Damascus, the official said. Government forces will now advance along with other fronts, it said.

Forces loyal to the Syrian government have now reportedly taken half of the area - the last rebel-held enclave close to Damascus.

On Friday the United Nations Refugee Agency chief Filippo Grandi blasted the United Nations for having "failed spectacularly" to protect Eastern Ghouta's civilians.

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