BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian Republican Army troops entered the rebel-held area of Douma in eastern Ghouta near Damascus on Friday, Syrian state television reported as mediator talks between the combatants collapsed.
The reported raid followed heavy air strikes on Douma City, said the TV and a war monitor.
There was no direct opinion from Jaish al-Islam, the rebel group that stayed in Douma after insurgents in other parts of eastern Ghouta accepted safe passage into opposition-controlled areas on the border with Turkey.
"The negotiations have failed, and as far as Douma is concerned, a military solution is the solution," said a regional military alliance commander Assad supports to Reuters.
The conquest of Douma would seal President Bashar al-Assad's biggest victory over the rebellion since 201
Footage broadcast by state television showed clouds of smoke rising from the area where tens of thousands of people are seeking refuge, according to estimates by the Syrian Human Rights Observatory.
The observatory said that a dozen Air raids on Douma killed and injured 25 people. It was said that the fighters were probably Russian.
The pro-opposition Orient TV said more than 20 people had been killed in the air raids.
The state media said a child was killed and 15 civilians injured in Jaish al-Islam bombing residential areas of Damascus.
State television said Jaish al-Islam had bombarded a Douma border crossing and a residential area that triggered air strikes on a city where tens of thousands of people seek refuge, according to the observatory.
The Observatory said that the Russian-mediated talks between the government and Jaish al-Islam had collapsed, and Jaish al-Islam's proposals to remain as local security forces in the region had been rejected.
State TV, in an on-screen news flash, said Jaish al-Islam had blocked an agreement and refused to release abductees who held it.
The group has consistently rejected the idea of leaving Douma for areas near the Turkish border, meaning that this is a forced population transfer policy by Assad.
Thousands of people have left Douma in convoys to the north in recent days, including injured rebels and civilians, but no active fighters of Jaish al-Islam, said the director of the observatory, Rami Abdulrahman.
The Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched their offensive against East Ghouta in February. It was one of the cruelest attacks of the war, killing more than 1,600 civilians in rebel areas, the observatory says.
Rebels from other parts of the eastern Ghouta were taken to northern Syria in convoys.
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